The Business Of… Transformational Leadership

About the Episode

The events of 2020 have inspired much reflection on what the future will look for organisations. For many, it’s apparent the future of work is not on it’s way - it's already arrived.

In this episode, we’ll explore the ‘now of work’ - and how leaders need to innovate to create organisations that are more human, creative and resilient. Digital transformation, with all its complexity and disruption, plays an important role in this innovation and change.

Host Emma LoRusso is joined by David Thodey, former CEO of Telstra and current Chair of CSIRO. David shares his insights into our digital future, and what business leaders need to know to lead people through this period of accelerated transformation.

We also hear from Deborah Young, founding CEO of the RegTech Association - a membership organisation facilitating the building of higher performing, ethical and compliant businesses, through innovative investment in regulatory technologies. Deborah shares her insight into how technological innovation and solutions can lead to remarkable growth and change on a global scale.

Finally, Emma speaks to Patrick Sharry, Chief Curiosity Officer at A Curious Drop and Program Director and Adjunct Faculty at the AGSM. With wide consultancy experience across public and private sectors, Patrick shares his insights and observations about how leaders need to be strategic, and continue to evolve as the business world changes.

Speakers:

  • Emma Lo Russo, (AGSM MBA Executive 2013), CEO and Co-founder of Digivizer
  • David Thodey, former CEO of Telstra and current Chair of CSIRO.
  • Deborah Young, founding CEO of the RegTech Association
  • Patrick Sharry, Chief Curiosity Officer at A Curious Drop and Program Director and Adjunct Faculty member at AGSM @ UNSW Business School.

Emma Lo Russo:
Welcome to The Business Of.

I’m your host Emma Lo Russo, and this leadership podcast is brought to you by the Australian Graduate School of Management at UNSW Business School.

The events of 2020 have inspired much reflection on what the future will look like for the organisations we lead. For many of us, it’s apparent the future of work is not on it’s way - it's already arrived.

In this episode, we’ll explore the ‘now of work’ - and how leaders need to innovate to create organisations that are more human, creative and resilient.

Digital transformation, with all its complexity and disruption, plays an important role in this innovation and change.

Joining me is David Thodey, former CEO of Telstra and Chair of the CSIRO. David’s expertise and signature leadership style make him the perfect guest to discuss today’s digital landscape and how it’s shaping the organisations of tomorrow.

I’ll also speak with Deborah Young, founding CEO of the RegTech Association, an organisation facilitating the building of higher performing, ethical and compliant businesses, through innovative investment in regulatory technologies.

And finally, I chat with Patrick Sharry, Chief Curiosity Officer at A Curious Drop and Program Director and Adjunct Faculty at the AGSM. Patrick has wide consultancy experience across public and private sectors, and he shares his insights and observations about how leaders need to be strategic, and continue to evolve as the business world changes.

First, let’s hear from David Thodey.

David, welcome to The Business Of.

David Thodey:
Thanks, Emma. Great to be here.

Emma Lo Russo:
I think if anyone can talk on the minds of board members and C-level executives and how they might be thinking about the future of work, it would be you. What do you think, given the challenging times. Has that been accelerated, those conversations?

David Thodey:
Definitely they have been accelerated. And I think we're still working through it, to be honest, Emma.

I think it's caused me to think about how we communicate effectively. I was going back to thinking about the introduction of the telephone. The telephone allowed us not to have to go physically see someone, and now with document sharing, video conferencing, shared whiteboards, being able to interact in different ways I think it has signalled a whole different way of how we communicate, and we've got to be careful in that, because some of it's good and some of it may not be as conducive to innovative, creative thought.

Emma Lo Russo:
That's a good point, because I think a lot of that change happened rapidly for organisations. They might of been talking about it, but they had to go straight into implementation mode. To balance the human element and that creativity, where do those ideas come from and that real future-think that means we'll survive. How do organisations ensure that? What do you think the right conversations should be? What are the priorities or a focus lens that could be placed around that?

David Thodey:
The way that we have been approaching it is not with necessarily a recipe as a solution, but trying to work out how we can make effective decisions or have effective engagement to get to good decisions. Very disciplined, rigorous board meetings or just manager meetings. And maybe we need a bit more asynchronicity. Maybe we break up the discussion from the decision making.

We're only limited by our creativity in using the technology to help us be more effective in our communication and decision making and don't get caught, the worst thing we can do is just continue to work and make decisions the way we used to, just on the screen, just moving it. Change it up. Think about it.

I think that's the critical thing. And use the technology to be more effective.

Emma Lo Russo:
And you have so much exposure between CSIRO and your role there and Xero and Tyro and all the many things that I haven't mentioned but I know that you're part of. What do you think the skills of the future need to look like? How do we look to leadership to lead and bring in that human and creativity element so that they challenge the way things are done? What do you believe is required, or at least the discussion that will drive this is what we're looking for?

David Thodey:
I think that the nature of work and how we lead does need to continue to evolve and change. As you know, leading people is a very human element. There's great ideas and there's great thought leadership and we can be inspired, but at the end of the day, leadership is about bringing a collective group of people together to achieve more than they would as individuals. That's what a great leader does, and somehow they enable you to do beyond what you thought you could do. And hopefully that involves doing things differently because the fundamental value in people working with people is to create differentiation, do things differently, that then creates some value, hopefully economic, social, or maybe environmental. So I think we need to keep thinking about what great leadership looks like.

There's some things I don't think will change. I think the art of self awareness is really important. That's foundational. But the days of hierarchical, dictatorial, command and control, probably weren't even appropriate before COVID, but even more so is not appropriate now. So it's about how you provide vision and purpose that allows people to really exceed in their particular area of responsibility. So it's creating a climate of creativity, of ingenuity, of enablement, rather than doing task-oriented things. I think that's the nature of work.

But I think it's going to be different, doing it remotely. I think there's good and bad, doing it remotely with people work from home. Because you still need that human interaction. Even now, I need to be able to look at your eyes, see how things going. But there's other elements that people can work when they feel it's appropriate for them to work, with children and other pressures in their life, so I think that's a really positive thing. So I do think leadership needs to be flexible. I'm trying not to use the word agile. But it is true.

I can even remember at Telstra, it's a while ago now, I should be careful to use examples that are five years old, but we did try to go to a principle that all roles flex. To redefine, even if you're in the contact centre or in a shop, that if you could work with your team to determine when it was appropriate for you to work and you could still trade off, then that created a far better working environment. And this idea of having to be at your desk to determine how you're doing work, it's just archaic. But we do need to think about giving people flexibility, but there are times we need to be together.

The question of creativity, how do you do creativity in a virtual world? Well hopefully it's not always virtual, first. Hopefully we can come together. But I haven't really nailed that one, Emma. I think you've got to go slowly. You've got to give people the opportunity to talk and express views. I read this morning that some people prefer doing a brainstorming session on video because they feel they get more airtime than some dominant individual who just takes up all the time.

Emma Lo Russo:
I know just as a personal, how we hire now, it's just brought down to smart, talented, get things done, infinite learner, not an asshole. Because what they studied and what they done before does not apply. You talked about flex, but it is the only way. But then you need to also be outcomes-focused and remember, and particularly I think it needs time, again it's an observation, but I think these care from the well-being of your team is probably become much more front and centre than it has in the past because this period has impacted people greatly.

David Thodey:
We've got to. I think it was Gary Hamel wrote a book just recently called, or he's a part author on, Humanocracy, putting the human back in to business, and relationship with the customers. I do hope that that continues. I think great companies have always had that, to be honest. I mean it's hard as you grow and you become more diverse and global, to keep that sense of human connection. But I also agree, I love your, I can't quite recite it, but your outcomes-driven, kick-ass, let's get on with it. That's great. Because you still need that edge. You still need to get stuff done, but you need to do it in a way that appreciates human personalities, characteristics, etc.

Emma Lo Russo:
For Australian businesses in particular, I know you've been a champion of this innovation coming from here and thinking global and those opportunities. How does what's happened just recently help set us up to think differently. Have you been more introspective or have we been able to actually think a little bit differently about our place in the world? And what would you hope for there?

David Thodey:
That's a big one. Let me just take it in two parts. One is our place in the world. We've got to remember, Australia is what? 1.6 trillion GDP? We're 1.2% of the globally GDP. We're a small nation.

Emma Lo Russo:
.33% of the global population, that's the one that I always remember.

David Thodey:
And .33%, that's right. All 25 million of us in a federation, states can't be competing with each other. We've got to remember our place there, but we do have an incredibly well-educated community. We have a can-do attitude, I think Australians generally if you look right across the board, are willing to give it a go and step up. And I think that we're blessed with a wonderful resources sector, great agriculture, etc., but what we've not done is build our, I'll call it services, but what I mean is software-driven, biotech, healthtech. It's all those big domain thought leadership, building global industries and, except the resources sector, only a few companies have truly gone global. Love CSL, love Cochlear, the banks have tried it. They've come back home.

But when you start getting down to those mid-corporates, we're not as externally focused as we need to know, and I think we need to both get into the tech-driven big services, knowledge-based information driven sectors, and have a global perspective on it, and say, "Why not?" Especially with the connected world. Tyranny of distance does not apply as much. You're still going to have to travel. I hope that that is what is going to happen going forward. I do think that's a big change.

I trust, we've seen the take up of technology, be it eCommerce, just trading online, other skills, has definitely risen. You know that the tech sector, this is whether you call it Industry 4.0 whatever you call it. This technology driven change across every sector, it's probably at best 25, 30% of the way through. This is a seismic change in every industry. And when you look in Australia, of that .33% of the population in Australia of the globally population, the tech sector is less than 5% and most European countries are up around 7 or 8% and the US is over 10, and in terms of GDP contribution, at best we're 6%, and we should be at 10%.

We need to, I think, pivot to that technology, knowledge-based industries. Not to throw resources away, not to throw ag away, and we do ag-tech, etc., but we've got to build this other leg to the stool. And I'm worried that we're not going fast enough. I think there's so much opportunity and we're starting to see a little bit in Melbourne in the biotech area. Seeing some here in Sydney. You got a few technology, software driven areas. But nowhere near as big as we need.

Emma Lo Russo:
By the way, you're preaching to someone who's in violent agreement-

David Thodey:
I thought so.

Emma Lo Russo:
And a super-champion of the same message. But I'd love to hear, and I'm sure our listeners would like, what do you think needs to be unlocked? Is that just the role of leadership? Is it government? Is it policy? Is it our education system? Does at start at kindergarten on? How much has to change to make this happen?

David Thodey:
Like everything, it comes back to leadership, and I'm not one of those people to say that it's all around government policy, because I think government's saying, look, get on with it, and we've got some great companies that are getting on with it. Now, there are a few impediments along the way that they need to tidy up as we go forward, but I do think we need to make it really attractive. To me, if I talk around science and the whole research area, science is nothing more than trying to discover how our world works, isn't it? Be it chemistry or biology or genetics. It's so exciting, and we just need to make it more exciting, and I think people will come.

I first will go to us and say, "Look, we need to step forward and say this is great." And I know there are a lot of people who do that. I do think that there is some responsibility for government where there's market failure. I think we can step in more. I mean, that's why I think New South Wales government setting up the tech centre around central, tech central, is really exciting. I think they're putting in 50 to 60 mil just to get it going and I think we as industry and we as leaders need to step into that. I know it won't be perfect, there'll be lots of things wrong with it, but let's take the 80% that's good and really make it work.

In terms of education, I think that we're not teaching exciting software skills at schools, unfortunately. We're making it more by rote than anything else. We need to make that come alive and that's why coding for kids and all those programmes are so good. But we need to make it exciting and relevant to life, back to the humanity. If it's something that's too theoretical, people'll tune out. We got to make it really live about what we're doing, purpose-driven, etc. So that's what I would say.

Emma Lo Russo:
You talked about mid-corporate and it starts with us as leaders. If you could say to everyone who's listening and to every leader, what should they do to challenge themselves and challenge their organisation and be that leader of change that leads to that innovation and that global thinking and competitiveness and make it exciting and purpose-driven? How do you break that down? I know, people who've worked with you, they are inspired by you, so what is your secret?

David Thodey:
Number one is to care. You've got to care. The first thing I've always done, I look at my own backyard and say are we living what we talk about? Are we practising it? And so you've got to do that. But then you've got to be willing to stand up and talk about it and step out and put yourself at risk a bit. And too often, a little bit of Australia tall poppy syndrome, not so much in this area, but a little bit. Step out and have an opinion, put it on the table, and go and make a difference and invest a little bit back into the community from where you come from. I think if we all did that just a little bit more, then the multiplier effect would be enormous.

The other thing I get very frustrated with in Australia is, and it comes back to this thing around, I don't know what it is, it's sort of the tall-poppy syndrome, but supporting each other. Emma, I think what you're doing is great. I want to see you grow ten times in whatever way you want to grow, whatever you define that.

Emma Lo Russo:
Hundred times, David. Don't limit my growth, please.

David Thodey:
That's right. Exactly, a thousand times. But we need to lift each other up, and too often I hear, states competing with each other, people saying, "Yeah, David's a nice guy, but did you know? He doesn't do this," or whatever. Build people up. The US go a little bit over the top on it, but we need to encourage each other, step up and change the attitude and so every day find someone to support or say something good about and encourage them on the way, because it's too easy to be critical. And then go do something about it.

Three things, make sure your backyard's okay, doing it. Step out and make a difference and encourage other people to make a difference. There are three things and we'll be all a lot better off going forward.

Emma Lo Russo:
I also heard you saying that, have the courage, right? Be uncomfortable. You talked about putting your opinion and maybe teasing out what things could look like? When do you feel uncomfortable, just out of interest? How do you put yourself into it?

David Thodey:
I feel uncomfortable often. I think the trick is to know how to put ideas out and not be offended if someone's got a better idea. It's like having this constant learning attitude that it's great to learn and you may be wrong, you may be right. When down in Canberra with COVID Commission and Steven Kennedy, Secretary of Treasury is talking around economic modelling around the impact of job keeper, I'm not an economist. I sort of know what's going on in the economy and I feel decidedly out of my depth in terms of econometric modelling. But I can put an attitude out there about getting people back into work, how will that work, asking open-ended questions, being involved.

But it's putting yourself at risk and you have courage to do that, that you learn and hopefully you contribute to a better outcome. Because that's what, you want the truth. It's not about me being right, not about you being right, it's about getting to the truth that will make a difference and are better for our nation and the greater world.

Emma Lo Russo:
When you've seen organisations make that transition, and Telstra would be a case in point. Amazing innovation in that period of time. Where there frameworks that you adopted? Was it creating that question-based, let's be driven by purpose? What does that look like? I guess one of the outcomes I would love for this, post this talk, is that people actually go, "I feel inspired. I have got the courage. But I know I need to bring my team along with me." Here's maybe a way that we can talk about it or set some context or here are the views that we could be thinking about. Have you seen something that creates that start that you have observed change and maybe fast change?

David Thodey:
I do. But I'm not sure it's as formulaic as the textbooks would like us to think. I am a great advocate for purpose-driven companies. I think purpose transcends economic return, self introspective behaviour. Being driven by something that leaves a mark on our society or in some way, is really important, because that's what gets us all going. Yes, I want to work hard, I want to do well, but you've got to know what you stand for and finding that can be very hard. And doing it in a way that opens up opportunity, doesn't close it down.

That's a little bit of a contradiction in terms, because any business needs to be good at what they do, but how you do it needs to be open and be able to get there in many different ways. Look, I know it's popular these days, but culture plays a critical role in there. And the culture needs to be real to who you are as an organisation, just like any society or nation, you're a product of your past but you have choice for the future. You can't deny your past, but you can create your future. You got to work off what is instinctively and innately you, and then move it forward.

We spend a lot of time thinking about our purpose. Telstra was not just being a telecommunications company, it was about creating a brilliant connection with people. So we got this human element, and by the way, if we had of thought about that earlier, we might of built WhatsApp. We might of even done things like, I don't know if we would of done Twitter, but we could of done communication and how we communicate in a completely different way. But we lost that because we were too slow in that. I think in that process of purpose and culture, it redefines who you are and then gives people the freedom to go and do things differently.

But also, the reality of large, complex organisations is you do need some guard rails. Let's talk around diversity, you can talk around diversity and I can say about gender equality, but until you go look at the policies that you have, you can be just absolutely talking out of the side of your mouth. And you need to have integrity in that, so you've got to go and say, "Look, are there policies or behaviours that are impeding us achieving what we want to do?" And be willing to change them.

It's not just all pie in the sky, it's actually hard, disciplined work. And it's the same with innovation. I wish that I could say to the CSIRO as well, "Just go and have a really good creative session and come back and tell me how we're going to change the world." But the truth is, in science and in innovation and research, you may have to do things a thousand times before you get to the thousandth-and-first time and hey, presto, you do something differently. Innovation and finding new ways to do things can be incredibly disciplined and hard work.

I love it if you do sort have that moment of brilliance when you decide something or see something, but often it's just hard work. I think it's from the visionary purpose, culture, alignment, all the way through the discipline and rigour of running a company differently. And I think how you keep that balance is really important, because it can get out of kilter really quickly if you don't watch it.

Emma Lo Russo:
I think that's a really brilliant point is making sure it's congruent. What you're measuring is not in conflict to what you're asking and, like you said, you called them the rail bars are there, but not the cap.

David Thodey:
Exactly.

Emma Lo Russo:
They can go as far as they want, just as long as you're not putting at risk or maybe there's the parameters.

And I do wonder if, you talked about asking the hard questions, and it is hard to make that change, but is critical thinking part of that? Is it the art of saying no to the too many things that you're saying yes to create the space for the right things? Is that part of what you think is both the rigour but where organisations go wrong? Or where do they go wrong when they are trying to do this? What have you observed?

David Thodey:
I thought you're talking to me, because I tend to say yes to too many things, Emma.

Emma Lo Russo:
I've observed it in many places. It's something you have to hold yourself to check as well.

David Thodey:
Yeah, absolutely.

Emma Lo Russo:
There's lots of good ideas and business cases that could be built, but is this the one we want our limited resources to go after.

David Thodey:
I really agree. Yeah. And you've got to know how, I do get enthusiastic and want to try new things, but I'm also very conscious execution is 96% of success and so you got to do the vital few. I do think prioritisation, which includes yes and no, but being very clear on your priorities, because you can't do everything, is really important. And actually using good methodologies to think through what is most important so that when you come back it's not just, my idea's better than your idea. We've thought it through and put the parameters against it and be, as much as we can, data driven. Because then it allows you to go back and review that decision about why you make. Because you have made a wrong decision, got wrong data. At least you can go back and say, "Well we made that decision because ..." Well that was different, okay, well let's go do something different.

What have I seen that people, companies do wrong? I listen to a lot of companies have great ideas and then two years later they pivot, they go do different things. One point I was quite critical of that, but actually think that is a really good sign. You've got to have an idea, pursue it, but be willing to change it. It does come back to this flexibility and being absolutely ruthlessly honest about whether you are succeeding or not. We all have this incredible ability to believe our own drivel and be willing, not in a critical way, but just what truth tells you, and be able to get that data and then if it's not working, to change. Which is coming back to your point around focus and yes and no. And then be willing to move forward. And I think the companies who don't do that are the ones who do fail, because they stay true to something that is not going to yield the value that they want it to.

Now that's different to something being really hard but right to do, and you've just got to stay the course. And sometimes that is really hard and there'll be a lot of people around you saying, "No, you're never going to succeed, David." And you've got to be strong internally to say, "No, we can do this. We're going to find a way through it." That's slightly different again.

There's sort of two parts there, one is be ready to change if it's not working. And two, have enough resilience, resilience, old word in leadership, but stay the course and believe in yourself and have the courage to go do what you got to do and then use all the methodologies and the help you can get along the way.

Emma Lo Russo:
So much food for thought. Thank you for joining us today on The Business Of.

David Thodey:
My pleasure.

Emma Lo Russo:
It’s always a pleasure to speak with David Thodey. It’s clear from our conversation that in order to lead progressive, future-ready organisations, leaders require clarity, calm, confidence, and compassion. And I loved the examples he gave of how this translates to better business outcomes.

My next guest has mobilised all these characteristics to build an organisation critical to the digital landscape we’re operating in. Let’s hear from Deborah Young on the story behind the RegTech association, and the reasons it’s grown from having just 8 members, to 150, in just 3 years.

So Deborah, welcome to the Business Of.

Deborah Young:
Thank you so much. Emma, so good to see you.

Emma Lo Russo:
And such an amazing journey. So, let's start with, tell me about RegTech Association that you founded and are CEO of?

Deborah Young:
Yeah, so it was founded in 2017 as a nonprofit association. And the small group of founders were pretty focused at that time around they had to ... I guess a vision and a mission, and they were to accelerate adoption of RegTech and to create a global centre of excellence. And I must say back in 2017, that seemed black an enormous mountain to climb because it was just such a small group of people who had the passion behind it. So we created the association three years ago and we're now 150 organisations, which is simply massive from where we started at my kitchen table.

Emma Lo Russo:
So first of all, for those that don't know what RegTech is, can you just unpack it for them? And then what's driven that amazing growth in just three years?

Deborah Young:
So we would say RegTech is defined as any technology that supports better regulation and better compliance. So it's really that simple. And of course it's really that complicated then because that is actually a very broad range of solutions. But I think, you know how they say in life that timing is everything? And certainly at the time that the association was founded was right at the beginning of the announcement of the Hayne Royal Commission.

And so that was the early wind beneath the wings as regulators and regulated entities were looking at how they could do things better. And so the association was able to ride the crest of that wave. What we were offering was actually a curation of the technology like had not been seen before. So, in other words, we were able to bring everybody together to have a more meaningful conversation than everybody trying to do it individually, door knocking and speaking to the wrong people at the wrong times.

So, I think it was about timing. And then certainly over the last six months, the pandemic has actually driven this next significant wave in interest in RegTech, and it's mostly because this is now impacting government, and when something will actually impact government, then we will start to see things happening as we've seen over the last six month period.

Emma Lo Russo:
So what drives that awareness around needing to plan against risk, and have this regulation and understand the governance and the importance of it? Why do organisations need it?

Deborah Young:
They need it for a number of reasons. And yes, it's definitely for good governance. It's definitely for compliance to regulation. They're some of the big ticket items because we've seen the size of the fines for non-compliance. But actually RegTech, this is why I love RegTech because it can actually improve the way people are doing their jobs every day. So if you're working in compliance or in regulation in some way, these are tools that can actually help you focus on higher order tasks, and not focus on all of the perhaps lower level risks, but actually to get some visibility over what the risks are to begin with.

So this is actually about tools to actually help equip people to do their jobs better. And actually further along, this is actually securing trust for the whole of the regulated ecosystem. So that's why it matters, then further on even from that, this is actually about people, and about people needing trust in their life. Like you and I want to feel that when we're interacting with our institution, irrespective of what that institution might be, it could be a bank, it could be an energy company, it could be a telco, you are assuming that you're operating in 100% trustworthy environment.

And what RegTech can do, is back that up all through the value chain to ensure that you can have that experience and that trust.

Emma Lo Russo:
And you touched on government too and particularly with COVID that this has been another period of growth. Can you explain why and how are they engaged and how fast can change happen?

Deborah Young:
Well, I think we've just proven over the last six months that change can happen really quickly when everybody's pulling in the right direction. And I think it touched the government in a number of ways. So for example, I think digital identity went up the importance chain, and we remember seeing the news reports of thousands of people standing outside Centrelink offices queuing up.

And this was simply because they needed to be identified and there was no other way of doing it except to ask them to actually risk probably catching COVID probably standing in a very long queue to go and have their identity verified amongst other things I've no doubt, but it was certainly one of the things. So, being able to identify people. Then we look at some of the other things that have happened during the pandemic, like the early release of super. And so I think KYC, or Know Your Customer, has also gone up the food chain as well.

So if I worked for a bank or financial institution and I was operating from home, have we covered off the security and the trust especially if I'm in a regulation or a compliance based role, I've got lots of sensitive data coming to me as an example? So I think that the safety around how we collaborate and the transfer and flow of information, has been heightened as well. So I think that there are three really good reasons why the government wanted to focus on RegTech and it felt like one day the phone didn't ring and then the next day the phone was ringing hot.

Emma Lo Russo:
That last statement is really about that opportunity. Why are we doing it? It's to serve our customers better or to serve our people better. How do you help organisations see that planning against risk versus opportunity? And who's the leader that you're talking to that needs to think about that differently and make that change.

Deborah Young:
That's a really interesting question. I think first and foremost, I'll go back to government just for a second. I think that the government has actually just recognised what their role is in RegTech, because the government potentially two years ago were treating this as a new and exotic thing, not quite sure what to do with it. But in actual fact when you think about the very top of the tree, is actually the government. Because the government are creating the requirement for RegTech.

They're making the policies, they're making the laws, that get handed to the regulators to administer, the regulated entities that then are needing to report to those regulators, and RegTech is trying to get in the middle to reduce the friction. Now when we talk about who's actually responsible within organisations, RegTech has probably moved around a little bit in areas of responsibility, but more and more we're starting to see leading institutions actually having Chief Data Officer, Chief Compliance Officer.

So no longer would it just sit with the Chief Risk Officer as it may have traditionally done, but there are new roles that we can see being created, and one of the very powerful things ... in fact, I heard a bank say this the other day, "They're no longer a place that you'd go to get money." Banks have become these big organisations full of data for all kinds of reasons and for all kinds of things. And so, we can see that a Chief Data Officer is going to have a very big interest in RegTech so, I think it's still emerging as to where RegTech will rest and maybe it won't ever be with one area of responsibility, but certainly we're seeing other financial services regulators in particular are running active RegTech programmes. So they're about educating, they're about surfacing what are the solutions, and whilst they don't endorse any particular solution, they want to surface that and make sure that education is there, so that people can see the potential of what's possible, so that they can monitor the risks more actively.

Emma Lo Russo:
And Deborah, because I've seen you personally bring about change, right? You've done it in many organisations even before the RegTech, and I've had the privilege to view and see this. What advice do you give people when they do need to think differently or to lead change or to introduce something that might require investment, but of course the outcome is so great? How have you personally led that? What's your journey been to realise that as an outcome?

Deborah Young:
Well the first thing is I think, you have to recognise that people ... despite the fact that I represent a tech, like an area of the tech sector and some people might say, "Well, is that really about people?" Absolutely. This is actually about investing in people. It's about investing in the people that you have now. It's about investing in the people that you're going to need in the future. And it's actually about creating a pathway. I mean all jobs have an evolution, from where I first started in my career is definitely not where I've ended up. And so we will evolve over that.

And what we're also going to see is organisations. There's going to be a blurring of the lines and we're already starting to see it. Technology companies becoming banks, banks becoming technology companies. And so, all of a sudden we've seen the blurring of these lines. We must be nimble. It has to be making better business decisions based on having the facts and the information and the data for you to do that. And so that's my message.

Invest in your people, take a data first strategy, and also, stay positive. Try and stay positive. Go for a walk every morning. And if you have to go for several walks a day. Take the time, take the time out. Because I think especially during this time my mental health has been very important.

Emma Lo Russo:
Yes. More so than ever. Absolutely. I think there's a lot of change that has happened to your point. We've accelerated, right? COVID's created this acceleration. How do organisations need to be thinking about their investment in technology to embrace every aspect, including the RegTech compliance component of it?

Deborah Young:
So I think organisations need to have a very deep understanding of their problem statements or their challenge areas. And I think they need to take all areas of their business, their people, their tech, and align against what those problems are, and then also they've got to make some pretty important decisions about whether to buy or build. And one of the interesting things for large institutions right now, they may even have access to investment capital through a corporate venture arm or something like that.

And so there may be some interesting things about, should they actually be using some of the investment capital from that fund to invest into technology companies that can help the overarching parent address some of the greatest compliance or regulatory challenges that they have. And the other thing I would say is that organisations should reach out to their peak body or their industry association. It's a wonderful way that they can roll up their sleeves, get involved.

They will have a natural peer group within that community. And being able to harness that sometimes is the greatest way that you can get wholesale change made across a very diverse group of organisations in my experience. And I think this is like my sixth industry association that I have worked for, and I am genuinely passionate about harnessing the power of everybody to create the change in momentum that's needed.

Emma Lo Russo:
You talked about investment in this technology and some of those decisions that get made around that, what are some of the returns? What should they be looking to when they're considering this for the future?

Deborah Young:
So, one of the case studies that I learned about just recently involved a RegTech company, a UK regulator, and a couple of banks. And they ran a trial, a manual process that took 1000 hours, and they put it next to the process that the RegTech was able to do and was able to achieve the same result in two and a half minutes. So when you're talking about a return on an investment, it's pretty clear that there's a lot of productivity and efficiency that can be achieved in a shorter amount of time.

And then imagine you would have all of that additional time to look and analyse that data. So those results that you've just been given, what else could you achieve having being given all of that time back. So I think that is a great example of RegTech at its finest, brings you the productivity, efficiency, bang. You've already made five business decisions based on that information that you didn't have to invest that 1000 hours.

Emma Lo Russo:
The power of making better decisions, more informed decision is keen in how we're going to operate into the future. So Deborah, because you're an amazing leader, I'd love you just to give your best piece of advice to other people leading change in their organisations. What would that be?

Deborah Young:
Well would it surprise you to know that you must bring diversity to your table? I see it so often. I see it so often, and it's almost like because we've had the pandemic, we don't need to worry about plastic bags anymore and we don't need to worry about diversity anymore because we've got bigger fish to fry, and we just should be grateful for whatever we get. Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid to say, "Look, certain groups here are not represented." Because the organisations that I see that are thriving, really have good diversity or have made a commitment to better diversity.

And that doesn't just mean gender diversity, that can mean diversity from a whole host of other things as well. It could be people with different abilities. All kinds of things. So I think diversity is the one thing that I feel most passionate about and you will get better business outcomes if you can be a more diverse organisation. And it will actually help you in some way to actually better serve your customer as well.

Emma Lo Russo:
Well Deborah, thank you very much, it was lovely interviewing you and learning the opportunities for businesses and the acceleration that's happened, and to your success, congratulations.

Deborah Young:
Thank you so much Emma. It was lovely to talk to you today.

Emma Lo Russo:
Fascinating to hear from Deborah on how leaders can manage the risk and compliance issues unearthed by this period of digital transformation, and the importance of investing in your people as well as technology.

An oft-repeated mantra is that a good crisis should never go to waste, and that’s something my final guest has observed in his consultancy work during this period of digital acceleration. Let’s hear from Patrick Sharry on how organisations are responding to the 'now of work' and the technologies shaping new products, services and business models.

So Patrick, welcome to "The Business Of".

Patrick Sharry:
Yeah. Nice to meet you.

Emma Lo Russo:
So, I mean, you work closely with a lot of senior executives in organisations, particularly around leading digital transformation and using that for innovation for their organisation. What do you see as the common challenges, adoption, opportunities and how is that being viewed today?

Patrick Sharry:
So, there is a particular lens on this from a COVID-19 perspective. And there are, if a lens, well a lens has two sides. There are two sides to that lens.

One is that people are really struggling to make sense of what they need to do, and what's the right direction to point any transformation. But also, I'm doing a lot of work with organisations at the moment and they're saying that, you know like a good politician would never waste a good crisis, they are leaping into the opportunity that the uncertainty the Coronavirus world has provided. And what they're doing is, in some cases accelerating by two, three, five years the way that they thought they needed to change their organisation, their business model, their structure, all of those sort of things and they're doing it now.

And so there is a real intensity in that, with people recognising that while the initial moments of the uncertainty were unpleasant and its not completely wonderful now it also provides an opportunity to drive a whole lot of change while everyone is more open to change than they might ordinarily be.

Emma Lo Russo:
And I think that's a bit of the secret right? It's the open to change, and then maybe using technology and seeing how they serve their customers.

Who is doing it well? Where do you see organisations? What questions do you ask to accelerate or to use this as the opportunity hidden into this hardship?

Patrick Sharry:
So without a doubt, the big change is around digitization of business models. And there is a number of different aspects to that, but one of the main pieces would be automation and its cousins, machine learning and those sorts of things. And those changes then drive structural changes in the organisation and require new skill sets to keep that automation moving, because it's not a once off thing. It's a journey that you are on and you need to keep working at that. And that, as I said requires new skills, and organisations are getting better at recognising that.

Emma Lo Russo:
Is it all organisations that you are working with? Do you think that some of the urgency that was there at the start is sustainable and leading to continuous change looking further enough into the future?

Patrick Sharry:
So the change won't stop in the next six months. This is a journey that we have been on and all that has happened is that we've accelerated it.

One of things that I'm conscious of organisations in different spaces is, particularly in a time when we are acutely aware of the impact of Coronavirus on employment or unemployment. The automation process actually can make that a lot worse, in that, you know you automate a process and it's not a 1-for-1 match by any means, but you often end up with a smaller workforce, or a different workforce. So you know in all of this there are also ethical challenges. There’s the need to recognise the societal impact that you have as an organisation. And there is a balancing out here of how do we reduce the cost of the business as much as we can, but still keep a place as a contributor to the broader societal need to have employment and people engaged in meaningful work.

Emma Lo Russo:
So how do you help organisations get far enough ahead to see what the future can look like to be able to effectively balance that?

Patrick Sharry:
Yeah so one of the things that I am doing quite a bit with organisations at the moment is building scenarios about what the future might look like. So we would be foolish to think that we can with laser-like accuracy pinpoint what the future is going to be. What good scenario planning does is it acknowledges that and says that we should be building a series of plausible futures about how our broader business environment might play out, and then thinking about how we need to manage our business model in order to remain viable in those different settings. And that's useful because of sort-of takes the blinkers off the belief that we could just have that one view, and importantly, cognitively, what it does is it leverages a thing called "The Availability Heuristic" and that means that people in the management team for example become a lot more aware of the things that are happening out there in the environment and they bring those back to the management table, to have more meaningful conversations about the future and our business model.

If you tie that with a deep sense of purpose in an organisation then you can start to get that balance, because these things are not in any way straightforward. There are always a series of trade-offs. Not just one trade-off. Making those things exclusive means that you can actually make sensible decisions in really difficult environments.

Emma Lo Russo:
I'm really glad you talk to that kind of scenario - look far enough into the future to try and put some context around it.

Does technology drive strategy sometimes or should strategy always drive technology? I am curious. What have you seen and when does one play a more important role than the other?

Patrick Sharry:
If this was a multiple choice Emma the answer would be E, all of the above.

So it absolutely goes both ways. The technology can drive the strategy, the strategy can drive the technology. The quality of that loop is dependent in no small part on the calibre of the executives that you've got. Ones who are actually able to do that forward thinking, and are open to ways of working that they might not have grown up with. So particularly for those of us who have grey hair and have been around for a little while it can be easy to sort of ignore all of the technology things, but good leaders know that it is actually critical to engage with that stuff.

Emma Lo Russo:
Two good points there. Bringing the right people to the table and good leaders will be putting themselves in uncomfortable situations going into spaces that they don't know. What do you think are the characteristics for leadership? What's required of organisations? Because as you said, change is going to happen anyhow. So what do you think are the right leadership qualities or the culture of an organisation to think about digital transformation and innovation?

Patrick Sharry:
Like all good questions, the answer Emma is "it depends".

Emma Lo Russo:
I learned that when I did my MBA.

Patrick Sharry:
Part of this is to acknowledge that different approaches to leadership work more effectively in different settings or to turn that around that different settings require different leadership styles, or the exercising of leadership in a different way.

If you think of what we have seen in particularly the early days, although it is continuing, of the Coronavirus situation, in that sort of chaotic setting what matters is really clear direction. Ideally with some expert justification for that, and I think our State Premieres have done a great job of that at the Federal level, we've done a great job of that. Could it be better? Yeah, we could, it's a bit difficult to be perfect in those settings, but we've done a pretty good job of that. If you look at other jurisdictions that hasn't happened and you can really see that difference.

When we begin to move out of this and so I think the way that Jacinda Adern is talking about this is really constructive. She is not talking about bouncing back, she's talking about bouncing forward. The river changes. We can't recreate stuff. And so we've got to acknowledge that and say that we can't bounce back we've got to create some new thing. To do that, the effective exercise of leadership there is about being much more consultative, which is not to sit back and let other people make the decisions, but rather to know that there is no silver bullet that an individual leader is likely to have. Rather getting the right people around the table and really listening to what's being said, being comfortable that at least in the early stages of that there will be a whole lot of tension and paradox and ambiguity that needs to be resolved and entering into that therefore with a strong sense of humility is what’s going to be important.

But again as we've seen I think really powerfully with Jacinda Adern the fact that you are consultative, the fact that you are humble doesn't mean that you are weak.

You need to maintain the pressure on the system to drive the outcomes, but you can do that from a sense of humility in a consultative way because it is important as an organisation or a society enters these times of change that we try and bring people with us. And the more we engage them going into that journey the more they'll stay engaged when we're on the way.

Emma Lo Russo:
I think the other beauty in that bounce forward is it is yet to be fully-defined right? Whereas, if you say bounce back you think somehow you can control what was there, and as you say everything changes around it.

Where have you seen emerging technologies help an organisation? Whether its helped them align to their strategy or hint to the future. What does that look like and when is it done well, in your view?

Patrick Sharry:
So that the thing that comes to mind immediately. An organisation that I'm working with who recently bought onboard some new technology leaders and they have made incredible improvements in the turn around times for, and the quality of customer service by using Bots of various types. In the fairly common way, where the Bot over time learns to be able to answer 30, 50, 70, 80% of inquiries, and they get dealt with really quickly and that therefore frees up the time of staff members to provide better quality customer service because the pressure is not on to those customers who actually need a more detailed and thoughtful response. And that sort of thing I think works really really well. Let the robots do what the robots are good at, Chatbots in this sense. Let the people do what the people are really good at, and bringing those together is what's successful.

Emma Lo Russo:
Are there a set of questions leaders could use to help them understand technology, emerging technology, disruptive technology to see where it sits?

Patrick Sharry:
That is a really difficult one Emma! That is a really difficult one.

One comment that will make is that all of these conversations including the ones that are driven out of Coronavirus with the technology added in, are causing organisations to reflect on their identity. So who really are we? And what I try to encourage organisations to do in that space is to think about what's their real social purpose. Because if an organisation can be really clear on its social purpose that becomes the guiding light for decisions that you make about technology and a whole lot of other things as well.

I'm enjoying very much conversations that I'm having with organisations that are around that.

Many of us have experienced through this whole iso-life time a lot of reflection about what do I really want to do in that bouncing forward sense. And organisations are doing a lot of the same things. Good organisations are using that as a chance to think about what their social purpose is and then to use that reinvigorated sense of social purpose to drive business decisions as they navigate into that uncertain future.

Emma Lo Russo:
Patrick I love that you said that because its almost like the guiding first principles for decision making, or leadership frameworks. If you can know who you are and who you serve then maybe you can ask the right questions of what they need in the technology.

So thank you, that was great to hear and I think you've made it less scary and more about that future state. I love the scenario planning. That feels low risk for people to start there, to have these conversations and tie it to business.

Thank you so much for joining us on The Business Of.

Patrick Sharry:
Thank you.

Emma Lo Russo:
I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Patrick. I particularly liked his point about scenario planning, and the idea of linking it with a deeper sense of organisational purpose, to create meaningful dialogue and change throughout an organisation.

It’s clear that talking about ‘the future of work’ is no longer an option for leaders. Leaders have to lead their organisations into the future - and do so now. In fact, talking can be a barrier to immediate action for a lot of organisations. The future of work is 'now', and leaders need to be investing in new skills and industries, to grow our organisations - and help them thrive in this time of change.

Remember, technology is critical, but people remain the smartest investment.

I’m Emma Lo Russo, I’ll talk to you next time on The Business Of.

Transformational Leadership - Part 2

About the Episode

The era of artificial intelligence (AI) is upon us. While it might not look like it does in the movies, its arrival is affecting organisations and the way we work.

In our second episode on Transformational Leadership, we explore how businesses can respond to AI, and harness big data to make decisions that benefit employees, customers and shareholders. We also examine the role of education in preparing students for the ‘now of work’.

Host Emma LoRusso is joined by Professor Toby Walsh, Laureate Fellow professor of artificial intelligence at the University of New South Wales, and lead on the Algorithmic Decision Group at Data61. Toby speaks to the present and future state of AI, and the challenges and opportunities it presents for business leaders.

Emma also speaks to Kristi Barrow, Principal Consultant at digital analytics consultancy, Kritikality. Kristi explains how business leaders can become advocates for incorporating data analytics into the decision making process of their businesses.

Finally we hear from Magnus Gittins, Director, Executive Education, at the AGSM. Magnus outlines the important role of the education sector in preparing students for the ‘now’ and future of work, and conversely, how those with established careers can leverage the drivers of transformation to upskill and thrive in today’s accelerated world.

Speakers:

  • Emma Lo Russo, (AGSM MBA Executive 2013), CEO and Co-founder of Digivizer
  • Professor Toby Walsh, Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence at UNSW Sydney and Research Group Lead on the Algorithmic Decision Group at Data61
  • Kristi Barrow (AGSM MBA 2006), Principal Consultant at digital analytics consultancy, Kritikality
  • Magnus Gittins, Director, Executive Education, AGSM @ UNSW Business School

Emma Lo Russo:
The terms artificial intelligence, big data, and machine learning have all entered the language of business , and they have important implications for navigating work as it is ‘now’ , but as-importantly, the future of work.

These technologies signify organisational change, alternate work arrangements, and new skill requirements among employees. With as many as 60% of the jobs expected in the next decade not yet conceived, leaders will need to plan these new futures, and take their organisations on what, for many, will be disruptive journeys.

In this episode, we take a closer look at this period of accelerated digital transformation and its impacts on people and organisations.

I’m joined by Professor Toby Walsh, Laureate Fellow, professor of artificial intelligence at the University of New South Wales, and lead on the Algorithmic Decision Group at Data61. Toby shares his fascinating yet rational perspective on the challenges and opportunities brought about by AI.

My second guest is Kristi Barrow, Principal Consultant at digital analytics consultancy, Kritikality. We hear from Kristi on how business leaders can become better advocates for incorporating the use of data analytics and new technologies to aid decision-making within their organisations.

Lastly, I’ll talk to Magnus Gittins, Director, Executive Education, at the AGSM. Magnus explains the role of the education sector in preparing students for the ‘now of work’, and conversely, how those with established careers can leverage the drivers of transformation to upskill and thrive in today’s accelerated world.

First up, let’s hear my conversation with Professor Toby Walsh.

Welcome, Toby to The Business Of.

Toby Walsh:
It's great to be here.

Emma Lo Russo:
I'm very excited to be talking to you about a topic I think lots of leaders, organisations, boards are talking about. How will AI change the way we do business, and how should leaders be thinking about this in approaching it?

Toby Walsh:
Well, it's hard to think of a part of business or even a part of any part of our lives that AI isn't going to touch. I mean, there's this often repeated quote due to a colleague of mine, Andrew Ning that AI is going to be like the new electricity. And I think there's some truth to that metaphor. Electricity is an incredible part/fabric of our lives. Everything is powered by electricity, all our data is sent by electricity. It's hard to imagine how we could live today without electricity. And I'm sure in 30 or 40 years time, we're going to look back and realise that we couldn't live also without artificial intelligence.

Emma Lo Russo:
So we shouldn't be afraid of it, I guess is the point there. It's coming. So how should leaders prepare their thinking and their organisation to be on this journey?

Toby Walsh:
That's a great question. I think that part of the problem is ignorance. People don't understand what artificial intelligence is. They think what Hollywood has told them, and much of what Hollywood would tell you is actually wrong, is perhaps way, way in our future if ever going to happen. And the uses of AI are much more prosaic. And indeed, AI is already a hidden part of many of our lives. I mean, every time you ask Siri a question, it's some artificial intelligence that's helping to answer that question, to transcribe the spoken text into a question, and then look up the answer.

Therefore, the first thing that business leaders need to do is to try and understand what are the opportunities? What are also the risks? Because also I think it's a technology where things can go wrong and there's plentiful examples already of even the most switched on companies that have made mistakes and fallen into pitfalls in the process of trying to wield AI to improve their business. So the first thing I think is education to find out what is possible, and the second to realise is that there aren't a lot of people who actually understand the technology, and there are even fewer people who understand the technology and your business at the same time.

And so you've got to somehow square that circle and work out how do you get people with those two skills? And actually, I suspect in many cases, the easiest way to do that is to train those people up, to invest in your people, which are of course the most valuable part of your business, because those are people who do understand your business and you can pick up the technical skills to work out how to use the technology to advantage.

Emma Lo Russo:
I think you just nailed it. I was going to say, how does someone start thinking about their organisation, to find the place that AI could be used to better the experience for the customer, or like you said, make better evidence-based decisions? Is there a framework or a mindset or an approach that they should take to getting to the heart of those questions?

Toby Walsh:
So much of this is being driven by data and ideas like machine learning requires lots of data. And so to begin to work out how you might use AI in your businesses is, you've really got to go back to the data. You should have a serious data plan, and you should be asking yourself, "Well, are we collecting the right data? And if we are collecting the right data, how can we use that to lift our game, to improve our product, our service, to understand our customer better?"

One of the important things, and this is different to past technologies, in particular our IT technologies that you might have integrated into your business is that it's a very difficult technology. It's not push button technology. When you brought spreadsheets into your business, that was pretty much a push button technology. There wasn't a lot of risk and there wasn't a lot of capability needed to actually use it, whereas that's not true today for artificial intelligence. It requires a lot of skill and expertise and there's a lot of risk. And you should therefore be careful and mindful of that.

So the first thing to do is to realise is that you need to get your feet dirty, but in a way that's not going to destroy your business at the same time. So don't start off by putting it in something that's mission critical. Find some part of your business, some small little area where you can build up your skills and expertise where it won't matter if it goes wrong, or if it doesn't do quite exactly what you want it to do.

Emma Lo Russo:
So what constitutes responsible AI? What do we need to think about when that's also being considered?

Toby Walsh:
That's a really important question, because we're discovering that there are plentiful things that can go wrong, that will cause reputational harm to your business, or even greater physical harm to your business and then you'll be facing lawsuits or the like, if you're not careful. There's plentiful decisions that you could be handing over to machines that will be problematic, and there are lots of examples. I mean, we're seeing how the disaster of handing over marking of exams through algorithms in the United Kingdom, that's caused a huge, great problem, a huge, great knock on effects to universities, huge, great problems to the government and a huge, great stress and challenges to school children and their parents within the UK, all of which was entirely unnecessary, all of which could have been predicted from the start, because in that case, they weren't asking the right questions. The problem there with that example was that they were trying to avoid grade inflation. They weren't trying to accurately rank children so that you could decide who went to which university places.

Emma Lo Russo:
What's the role then of the government in creating frameworks, what frameworks do help ensure that bias isn't in built?

Toby Walsh:
I suspect like many other areas that we're going to need regulation and norms set at all different levels. So that starts at the international level. We're already seeing international efforts within organisations, within the United Nations, within the World Economic Forum, other bodies like the OECD trying to set international norms and standards. We see bodies like Standards Australia, an ISO trying to come up with appropriate standards, so at the international level. But equally, actually much of this I suspect is going to be set by national governments. They have the right level of control. We're not perhaps going to have the same standards or want to have the same standards as a country like China, or even as a country like the United States.

And so, there's a very important role for governments to provide suitable regulation and frameworks, through to things like kite marks, our chief scientist, Alan Finkel has proposed a Turing stamp as a way of providing consumers with confidence that they're buying products and services that meet various ethical standards, to a level where it will also be a distinguishing feature between companies. I mean, you can seek commercial advantage by positioning yourself as someone who respects your customer's privacy, for example, and that you see already in the tech industry. You see a company like Apple has a very strong reputation of defending the privacy of its customers, of never selling their data to other people, whereas a company like Facebook is quite different in its attitudes towards customers. And I think its reputation is perhaps less strong and less good as a consequence.

I think it's a way you can see of distinguishing yourself from your competitors, the internal standards you have. And it's not only advantage in terms of your business and your customers. It's also in terms of your staff loyalty and the values that you strive for as a business. And increasingly I think we see, especially with millennials, that they want to work and only want to work for businesses that meet the standards and norms that they find acceptable. And so as a business, it's important that you actually respect those sorts of boundaries.

Emma Lo Russo:
I'm curious just about the Apple and Facebook examples at both ends of where it might be protection of data on one hand and commercial use of data on the other, what do leaders get wrong here? Is that something that starts at the top? Is it the framework, is it government that's going to help manage that? How do we build trust around AI and integrating that into organisations?

Toby Walsh:
It really is important that we build trust. And I think we are seeing some loss of that trust already. We're seeing the tech-lash that is happening, that people are actually starting to be somewhat distrustful of the tech companies and their aims. I think it starts from the very top of an organisation. The values are important and they need to be more than just a window dressing. They really actually have to mean things, and people have to really believe in the business.

I think the really important idea is that customers have to feel that they're getting an appropriate return, and you can see why this breaks down. Why is it that people are logging out of Facebook? I've closed my account down. I haven't used Facebook now for many years. But why is it that people find a company like Amazon, who actually also use your data quite extensively, why do they find a company like Amazon much more acceptable? Well, in the case of Amazon, you feel you're getting a proper return. You feel that you're getting access to goods that are competitively priced, you're getting next day shipping for free or for the price of your Amazon Prime membership.

So whilst you are giving up data, that is true when you use a service like Amazon, you're definitely are getting a proper return. And I think that's where some tech businesses have been going wrong, that they have been hoovering up your data and people are thinking, "Well, wait a second. I don't seem to be getting a suitable return for the privacies I'm giving up here anymore."

Emma Lo Russo:
So you touched on where it goes wrong, but where do leaders get this wrong?

Toby Walsh:
Well, I think it comes from having good values at the end of the day, I do think that the boards are going to start having another person in the C suite - the CPO, the chief philosophical officer. Because there are some really challenging, ethical questions that businesses are having to face. There are a whole raft of wicked problems that the planet is facing, whether that be the climate emergency, the knock on effects from this disastrous pandemic that we're seeing, or the increasing inequality that we see within our societies. The rich getting much richer and many of us being left behind, or the toxic environment that many of our political debates are turning into, and sadly, the tech industry is perhaps contributing to. So there are a whole bunch of really challenging global problems that we face, and the businesses are actually part of, in some places contributing to, in some sense, being part of the way that we're going to tackle these problems. And so businesses and leaders of businesses, I think increasingly have to make some really challenging decisions.

Emma Lo Russo:
And Toby, just for the benefit, because I know I see this question get asked often from leaders who don't know the difference, or whether there is a difference between machine learning and artificial intelligence, would you help unlock that?

Toby Walsh:
Yes. I mean, machine learning is a part of artificial intelligence. It's a very important part of artificial intelligence at the moment. Many of the recent successes that you would have read about probably be involved some machine learning, but it's not the only part of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is trying to get computers to do things that humans require intelligence to do. Our intelligence is largely learned. I mean, when you were born, you couldn't read or write, you couldn't do math, those are all things that you learned. But equally there are other parts of our decision making, which aren't just the things that you learn. They're about deliberation, about planning and so on. And so AI includes all of those other things than just machine learning. But machine learning is definitely a really big component of it at the moment, but it's unlikely to be the only part of it. Certainly, as we move forward, as AI gets more sophisticated, there's going to be other components that we're going to start using more and more.

Emma Lo Russo:
To me, this is an area that I love. I've got a company that - we're a data company, so we're very much in this space, but what excites you most in terms of the opportunity of AI?

Toby Walsh:
I always like to tell people it's the four Ds. It's the dirty, the dull, the difficult and the dangerous. That's what we will get machines to do, the dirty things that we didn't like doing because they were dirty. The dull things because we got bored by doing them. The difficult things because they could do things that humans can't do. They can look at data sets bigger than humans could look at. They can actually perform at superhuman level on narrow tasks. And then the dangerous things, as an example, they can go and clear out the sewers or clear minefields and do other things that are too dangerous for humans.

And so when I hear people saying and complaining or worrying that the computers are taking over jobs, I normally say to people, "Well, I don't know much about that job perhaps, but I suspect we should be celebrating. The very fact that we got a machine today to do that particular job tells me almost certainly it was a dull, repetitive thing and we should never have gotten humans to do it. And therefore now is a moment to celebrate. We're no longer degrading humans to do things that machines could have done." Of course, it raises challenging questions about, well, what do we do with those people whose time now has been displaced?

I think that's a really important lesson, which is we could do one of two things. If you're a leader of business, now you've automated some part of your business, now you could do two things with those people. You can either use that to save your bottom line and reduce your head count. I think that's a really shortsighted idea because that's a race to the bottom, we live in a high wage economy. Our neighbours around the Pacific rim are going to beat us in any of those races. And the alternative view is to realise, well, that's an opportunity. We've got those people's time freed up. We can now use that to get those people who understand my business, understand the customers, to get them to innovate and create, to use those human skills to lift your game, to improve your product, improve your service and not race to the bottom, but actually make yourself a better company by serving your customers better.

And that is if you want to be a business in the long term, if you want to be around in 50 or 100 years time, I think that's where you should be thinking about, now that's the opportunity we've got. We've got an opportunity to lift our game.

Emma Lo Russo:
If data’s at the heart of everything we're talking about,, I imagine that the first thing is make sure you've got a good, original learning set or data set where you're ensuring you haven't got those biases in built,, but if we're going to take full advantage of AI, how do we make sure that bias is removed?

Toby Walsh:
You can't eliminate biases in some settings, and then some bias, there will be a bias. You're making a decision, you're picking a subset of people out that there's a bias and you're just going to be happy to reflect the norms. I mean, it throws out these deep philosophical questions. Well, what does it actually mean at the end of the day to be fair or unbiased if that's possible? And we're discovering that actually is a difficult, philosophical, mathematical question. We actually don't have exact answers to these problems. Despite hundreds of thousands of years of philosophy, we're discovering that it is throwing up deep, challenging, ethical questions.

Does it mean equality of opportunity or equality of outcome? What do we really actually mean to say, we don't want to discriminate on the basis of sex or age or race? If, for example, unless the groups are truly identical, you are going to be treating some in disparate ways. And so you have to work out what is the societal norm? What are the acceptable values within our society? And it really is important that we have these conversations. And in some sense, they're old conversations. They're ones that have actually troubled us throughout history. It's just that when we get computers to try and answer these questions for us, and anyone who programmes a computer knows how frustrating the literal computers are. And so, it's actually requiring us to actually face up to these difficult questions, which troubled us in the past, but we didn't have to be so prescriptive when we were getting humans to make them, but now we're getting computers and programming computers and all that it requires.

Emma Lo Russo:
Coming back to the role of government, so we talked about the frameworks and the policies that can help here, government's also sitting on some of the biggest data sets and could potentially influence some of the biggest positive outcomes, so whether it's health or services. What's your view of, if data's at the core of this, how do we manage our data in a way that could get the best outcome from using these technologies?

Toby Walsh:
You're right. Actually government is in some sense, the organisation that is set perhaps best to benefit from this revolution. Government collects more data than almost any other organisation within our country. Government is trusted in many cases with that data, more than businesses. A third of our GDP is what the government is doing and spending. It's a significant chunk of our economy and they're always trying to deliver better their services and increasing demand on their services. So there's a lot that government can do.

And equally, unfortunately, we've seen some mistakes the governor's made. Robodebt is one of the more recent examples, which I think the challenge there is if government becomes too cautious and conservative because of the mistakes that were made there, when actually it should be one of the - it has the opportunity to both use AI and also to drive the adoption of AI, both through procurement standards and by setting examples for other businesses. I've been spending quite a bit of time in the last few years, actually talking to departments within governments, trying to help them down their journey because actually, it is one of the most important ones.

And as an example, in a country like Australia, where we have a huge, great opportunity, if we can seize it, is in medical data. So we have a joint up healthcare system, which is a great advantage we have over many countries. And if we are careful and mindful of all the challenges around privacy and the like about the data that gets collected in our system, we have a great opportunity to lift our collective health and our individual health to actually all of us to live longer, and as a community to actually increase our life expectancy, and not just our life expectancy, but the quality of that life as well.

Emma Lo Russo:
So Toby, you've published a book 2062: The World that AI Made. Tell us about this book. What's the story?

Toby Walsh:
I probably should explain the title, why the year 2062. I surveyed 300 of my colleagues, other experts in AI around the world, and 2062 was when they said on average machines would be as smart as humans. And I imagine they'll be not only as smart as us, but very shortly after that, much smarter than us. They have many advantages. I think it would be terribly conceited to think that we couldn't build machines that were smarter than us.

But whilst we've got a way to go to get there, perhaps 2062, my colleagues weren't saying it's going to take hundreds or thousands of years, it's something that's going to happen in the lifetime of our children, and if we're lucky in our own lifetimes. And that's going to surely be a very profound change to the planet, because we look around the planet today, it is the product of our intelligence. We have 8 billion people on the planet, courtesy of the invention of agriculture, courtesy of the invention of vaccines and medicines and all those other things, electricity, all those other things that keep the planet ticking over.

And so, if we've got another intelligence on the planet that's possibly even smarter than us, it's going to be profound what we can do with that. And that's going to change almost every aspect of our lives, and that's going to happen in the next 40 or 50 years.

Emma Lo Russo:
Toby, I love that you've unlocked artificial intelligence and the good that it can have on our world, and helping us in ways that it should.

Toby, thank you so much for joining us today on The Business Of.

Toby Walsh:
It's been my great pleasure.

Emma Lo Russo:
What a fascinating conversation. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. AI can be a subject surrounded by trepidation and caution, from people and organisations. I think Toby does a superb job of drawing out the positives and putting the challenges into perspective.

My next guest is no stranger to the world of big data and how to incorporate it for accurate data-led decision making. Let’s hear from Kristi Barrow on how data can help create a culture of digital advocacy within organisations.

Hi, Kristi. Welcome to The Business Of.

Kristi Barrow:
Hi, Emma. Thanks for having me.

Emma Lo Russo:
I'm very excited to hear about your new venture, Kritikality. Do you want to share what your journey is?

Kristi Barrow:
Absolutely. So last year I left my corporate role that I'd been in for about six and a half years and decided to open up my own consulting business. And I think really the reason why I did this, when I think about it is that I love solving problems. I have an engineering undergrad, and I like hooking things up and solving problems. And I definitely saw an issue or a problem in the market where a lot of companies spent a lot of money on digital marketing technology and their data and then don't get the maximum ROI on their investment for different reasons. A lot of it comes around to resource and skillset, and I saw a bit of a gap in the market to go in there and really help people set themselves up for success in this space.

Emma Lo Russo:
And where do you see organisations get this wrong?

Kristi Barrow:
I think it's really about not understanding how to resource up properly for something like this. I think, you go in and you buy this technology and in some cases potentially there's this feeling it's a little bit set and forget. We bought this, so we can do it. And now we're going to move on and buy the next shiny toy. And absolutely something like any of the marketing technology. A, there's so much of it at the moment, B, it's very complicated, C, it can be quite expensive.

One of the big issues is that a lot of companies spend a lot of money in the millions of dollars on data that is potentially collected in an incorrect way. And often the way the data is collected in the first place in the digital space, it might have touched three different divisions in a company. No one actually has a KPI on that quality. And then a lot of this data is then used for the marketing team to spend this money with some of the very big players in the market to get as much as possible out of their marketing money. Now if that data is wrong in the first place you could be spending on wasting a lot of money and not getting the return that A, you thought you were getting, or B, that you should be getting.

Emma Lo Russo:
And why do you think that falls down, is it the lack of knowledge or skills or capability in an organisation? Is it not the right questions at that first outset, is it the lack of collaboration of the one team, one view around the one customer? Like why does that happen do you think?

Kristi Barrow:
I'd say it's that, it's still very much a I think, and some people would disagree with me on this, a structural and team and culture issue. Because even if you have people who understand how to put it together, if they don't have the tools and the support to do it, they can't do it. So I think it's very much the fact that digital seems to be still quite siloed with all the pieces that are involved in getting it right. So just about every large organisation will have developers sitting somewhere else. And the developers are often the very, very start of capturing digital data. They often won't have KPIs on digital data quality, nor do they necessarily have time or the priority to do it as well as they might like. So all of the great intentions in the world from everybody in an organisation, it's really hard to get over an actual structural problem.

So I think that's sort of one of the big problems is how everything is kind of siloed. You might have the website team also might be different to the marketing team and not everyone knows what's going on. And if all these people are in areas where they ultimately bubble up and their only common leader is the CEO, it's really hard for them to work together. Because everybody has their own agenda, everyone has their own KPIs and targets and what they're working towards. That's just how a big company works. You have to structure it somehow. You can't just have a free for all, because it would be chaos. And I think the companies that are starting to succeed in this space actually have this setup much better than the more traditional, we sort of have IT here and finance here and operations here and marketing here and product here.

Emma Lo Russo:
Do you see it starts at the top in leadership, that's where the best outcomes are? Or what's your recommendation for where they should start and how from C level down it should be owned ?

Kristi Barrow:
Yeah, look I think the C level definitely needs to be involved, but it's probably that one level below. And maybe the one level below that, that really has to push this kind of thing. I think if you are an organisation that gets up there and says, "We base our decisions on data," then you have to walk the talk. So it's got to be that level where priority, funding is given to actually collect accurate data.

Emma Lo Russo:
Is there other things that you think kind of like, "If they followed these three things that have this start to the right foundations," and to answer the questions they need ?

Kristi Barrow:
I think one would be, give data the priority or make it a priority. The second one would be, make decisions on data and actually really communicate that you have made this decision and done it, and also be consistent. Don't just make some decisions on data that suit you, and then the ones that don't suit you, you kind of just ignore it or not talk about it. You know, I think often there's a tendency as people who've got this great idea, and then they go and find data to support that idea. And there's an inherent bias in coming at a problem from that perspective. You have a problem that you need to try and fix, use the data to come up with a solution as opposed to the solution and then finding the data to kind of back it up.

And I think the other thing is also really get educated around what data can do for you. There's, if you think of maybe your favourite products or your favourite services, try and understand why they're your favourite products and services. And customers' expectations are so much higher then they are this year then probably even last year and definitely higher than five years ago. So if there's some really basic things that have been on your roadmap that you've just kept putting down to the bottom because you didn't think they were that important, five years ago you've suddenly realised that you're behind in customers' expectations.

Emma Lo Russo:
In terms of, I mean, you talked about how much technology is out there and there's a lot of new technology hitting the market all the time. What should organisations be thinking about or looking to?

Kristi Barrow:
I think there's a lot of discussion around artificial intelligence and machine learning and how great it is. And everyone wants to jump from here to here, which is awesome. But , if you don't have the right foundation, it's not going to work anyway. But also understanding what that means. And there's, I have an example from Professor Nico Neumann, and he does a lot of research into data and tracking and attribution, all this kind of stuff. And he always has this great example, which I wanted to steal, but I thought I should give him credit, of attribution, especially with digital marketing.

So attribution is around giving credit to a channel that caused some kind of conversion. So really easy one might be your business has sent an email to a customer, that customer has then opened the email, headed to your website and bought a product, or perhaps filled in the lead form. He said when he was younger he got a job working for a nightclub. And the nightclub said, "We'll pay you," I don't know, let's just say, "$5 for everyone who comes in with a flyer."

So, the idea of the nightclub owner was that Nico and his friend would go all the way everywhere, hand out these flyers all over the place, and they'll get a bunch of new people coming to the nightclub. What he did was stand around the corner from the entrance and handed out a flyer to everyone coming past, because that was the easiest way of getting to his goal. It wasn't the same goal as the nightclub owner, but it was his goal.

And a lot of AI technologies in the programmatic space work that way. Their goal is to touch as many sales or conversions as possible. Their goal is not to get you more sales and conversions in a way. So I think understanding how all of this stuff works and the limitations and how to set it up is super, super important. Because otherwise you don't really understand what's going on and you're not getting the most value.

Emma Lo Russo:
So you talked about that education piece, how do the executives and business leaders stay across this so that they can be informed to make the right decisions for their business?

Kristi Barrow:
Yeah, that's an interesting one. And one I've been thinking about a lot and really you need to invest your time into it. You have to believe it's important. So there's a lot of different ways of doing this. You know, the easiest one is I can just say, "I'll go and read some blogs around that." That's not really going to help. But I think there's two really good ways. One, talk to your team more. There was a lot of discussion I think last year around reverse mentoring and kind of things like that. So if you don't think you understand, you don't need to go out and hire a bunch of consultants like me, probably doing myself out of it. To do that, go and talk to your team. They probably know a lot more about this, but talk to them with an open mind, right?

And I think the second thing is that you know, there is some formal education or semi-formal education is really important as well. There's a company called Decoded that runs an excellent course called App in a Day. And they take anybody, it doesn't matter what their skillset. And at the end of that day, you have built this little functioning app. And I've been through it and it's absolutely fantastic. What I've struggled to do is to get senior leaders to take the day off to do it. And this is I think comes back to the priority thing. You have to want to do it, and you have to invest your own time. You can't just go and ask someone else or delegate this to somebody else in your team. You have to actively want to spend the time and invest.

Emma Lo Russo:
We explore the theme of doing well and doing good. And technology, there's been a lot of talk about the technology companies. You talked about talking to employees, but this is the ultimate measure of your customer, and customers are choosing what they want for their data. What do you see is the future for getting that balance right of the customer's happy, and so is the business and data's at the heart of it?

Kristi Barrow:
I think there's definitely a movement that has happened over the last couple of years around what's now acceptable practise for companies. I think companies often always held the power, and as a consumer you had to just sort of go along with it. But there's been a lot of things that have happened. Especially if you think about the Royal Commission into Financial Services and things that have come out of that. Where I think that's highlighted that the community now doesn't say some of those practises as being acceptable. They might be legal, but they're not acceptable anymore.

I think now with expectations from the community and customers being higher, you can use digital to actually really improve the customer experience, not just save money. I have an example here. Very, very large Australian corporate of which I had a service that I tried to cancel. You couldn't cancel on the phone, because you couldn't find a phone number. You couldn't cancel on the desktop or mobile website. You had to download their app to get into a chat, and that was the only way you could cancel. Now, after doing

all that, I was pretty frustrated and pretty angry. Kristi Barrow:
I have no more services with this company and anyone whoever asked me, and I won't name, I will never ever recommend this company and I will never go back to them ever again. Now, the reason why I was cancelling the service was actually to do with the outcome of COVID. And I probably would have started it up a month or two ago, but there is no way now that I will go back to that company to buy the service ever again, because my experience was so bad.

So they use digital as a way to try and A, save money, but make it harder for me to leave as a customer. And for me that's not acceptable anymore, and I won't do that. So I applaud companies, I think a company like Netflix, Stan, I watch a lot of TV in my spare time. That's my downtime. They do make it easier to turn it on and off. Kayo is another one, right? And that's the way things are moving. And I will always go back to them because I was really happy with the way that they treated me as a customer and my wants and needs. And I think now with digital, there's that opportunity to go, yes, you can save money, but B, you can also improve the customer experience.

Emma Lo Russo:
Kristi, thank you for taking the time today. I think you're right. It has to delight the customer and make it easy and frictionless for them. And that information and organisation needs to be raised to the level that good decisions are made. Thank you for giving us some guidance.

Kristi Barrow:
Thank you, Emma. Thanks for having me.

Emma Lo Russo:
A number of great insights there from Kristi, executive teams sometimes seek out data that supports our ideas and agendas that as leaders it is important to remove that bias in the data and seek the truth of data form the solutions not the other way around.

My final guest for today is Magnus Gittins, Director, Executive Education, at the AGSM. Let’s hear Magnus’s views on the role of the education sector in preparing future leaders with the skills required to thrive in the now and future of work.

Magnus welcome to the 'Business Of'.

Magnus Gittins:
Thank you, Emma. It's a pleasure to be talking to you today.

Emma Lo Russo:
So I think everyone understands technology's changed the way we work and a lot of people are thinking about the future of work, but you talk about the now of work. What does that mean?

Magnus Gittins:
Yeah, so I think a combination of, or confluence, of factors have really kind of accelerated what everyone had anticipated and brought it much further forward. So we're seeing as a result of technology adoption, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we're seeing a lot of what we had anticipated coming down the track in sort of three to five years time, actually impacting the skills that are required of the workforce today. So looking at things like automation, looking at things like technology and digital adoption, these rates are accelerating to the point at which they're outflanking the workforces current skills and those skills are not just technical skills, but they're the soft skills. I hate that term soft skills because in actual fact, it very much sort of diminishes the importance of those things like leadership, adaptability, dealing with ambiguity, dealing with an accelerated and increasingly complex world.

So I think the now of work is important because it focuses us very much on what we need to do today, which is reskilling and up-skilling people, so that they're able to lead, that they're able to work in this new dynamic environment and COVID-19 has presented many challenges, but it's also been really positive to see how we've all responded to this and how we've stepped up and stepped into it.

Emma Lo Russo:
So Magnus how do organisations get themselves ready? They might have, are they more open to it because they've had to accelerate that with COVID-19, but what's your advice?

Magnus Gittins:
So what we're seeing in the workforce is both skill shortages across the economy and in increasingly important areas like cybersecurity, for example, or risk management within financial services, for example, where that has been legislated as a requirement, as opposed to be a nice to have. So we're seeing skill shortages but we're also seeing new occupational categories emerge as a consequence of automation, as a consequence of artificial intelligence and as a consequence of cybersecurity and the opportunities and challenges that that entails. So what we're seeing at AGSM is sort of an enterprise level assessment of skills. Whereas before, just a few years ago, organisations would invest in talent and they'd invest in talent, in a bit like in a pyramid, the more senior you were or the more high potential you were considered to be, the more investment dollars would flow into your learning and development.

What we're now seeing is across the board investment. So actually getting entire sort of up-skilling and re-skilling across the organisation and that's presenting some interesting challenges because that comes at a cost. But the interesting conversation I'm having with organisations is how they look at the cost of talent, acquisition, and retention, they look at the cost of retrenchment as a consequence of some of these factors, and then they look at the cost of up-skilling and reskilling. It's interesting to see that many organisations are now saying it would be better for us to see if we can up skill or reskill the people that we have rather than release people and then go into a competitive market for talent when that talent just isn't always there.

Emma Lo Russo:
So when they're hiring anyone in an organisation or they're looking at up-skilling the talent in their organisation, what do you think the characteristics are that helps someone be future-proofed and ready for whatever the future looks like?

Magnus Gittins:
Good question, so adaptability. Actually being able to pivot and be able to switch gears is really important. So not having a fixed mindset, having a mindset that's open, it's not even so much a growth mindset. It's more just an open mindset that is appreciative, curious, desirous of change in many respects. So I think those characteristics of someone who is able to say, you know what, I've done this for a decade, but I'm open to the possibility of doing something new and leaving what I did behind. So I think the people who will be successful are those who are adaptable and who are able to actually to look at the changes that are working their way through the market and actually to embrace those changes and actually bring a degree of adaptability, openness, lateral thinking, curiosity, those types of characteristics, which take someone out of a traditional fixed mindset and actually enable a change in occupational or a change in skills. And so I think that's going to happen with increased frequency over time. So, not no longer having the certainty of an occupation that spans multiple decades or an entire trajectory of someone's working life, but actually being able to step into something new, to experiment, to pivot.

Emma Lo Russo:
And Magnus, you've done a lot of study of that global kind of view of the workforce. What do you see as the opportunities for businesses when they're thinking about either the opportunities for their own team or a global view of that whole kind of marketplace?

Magnus Gittins:
Yeah. So it's interesting how we were very much heading towards very much sort of a globally mobile workforce and how COVID-19 has just kind of put the dampness completely on that. So I'm, sort of, in some respects a product of that, I moved from the UK, moved to pursue an opportunity here in Australia, and so I think global mobility has really been, the acceleration has been put on hold. I mean, there was no mobility. So I think the idea of teams and how the work forces then resource for talent and for skill shortages is going to be something that governments are going to have to wrestle with, and organisations are going to have to wrestle with because a country like this one, which relies on immigration in order to meet its labour market requirements and its demands, that's just not going to happen right now. So, that's going to force an investment in talent, it's going to enforce investment in development, if only to meet the skill shortages that are currently anticipated, let alone the ones in the future.

Emma Lo Russo:
So you obviously are looking from an education perspective of how to arm the future employee, how are you working with organisations to understand how to get their team ready to think and solve those challenges?

Magnus Gittins:
Well, in the first instance, those organisations need to think about what is their strategic future. So what markets do they want to operate in? What is their aspiration in terms of their growth ambition? Organisations need to, sort of, think several steps ahead about what they want to be when they get five, 10 years down the line. Admittedly, that's a lot of scenario planning, the days of the five-year strategy and the five-year plan are gone, but organisations still need to have a view about what is the Flag on the Hill, because everything else then becomes a translation of that aspiration.

So I think it's all about starting, and this is where we see organisations getting a little confused. So a lot of organisations will gravitate towards what they know, which is how do we achieve incremental improvement in our operating models. So how do we get better processes? How do we get better systems? How do we improve that archaic billing system that has never been addressed for 20 years? But unless you start at the very top, which is the strategic ambition and the purpose, then those decisions get compromised because they're all made in the context of the here and now, rather than what the organisation wants to become. Learning and development of people is in no way any different to that. There are investment choices that need to be made into capabilities and skills, but they have to start with an understanding of what the organisation wants to achieve.

Emma Lo Russo:
So when you look to what drives the change and maybe the speed, is it typically technology or a mindset change or competitive threat?

Magnus Gittins:
The Confluence of those three factors, I think. So when I look at technology and the role of digital and data and you look at incumbent organisations like banks, and you look at how they're being challenged, not only by global digital giants, like the Apples and the Googles, but also the FinTechs and the Startups, it's an uncomfortable place to be. If you're running legacy branch networks, where you have huge investments in infrastructure and technology, and yet you're being challenged on both fronts. So I think the interesting aspect of COVID, but also technology is how that's really shaken those existing business models to the core, whereby in actual fact, and we as a university are equally vulnerable, when our last point of competitive protection is the fact that we can issue degrees under a charter, that's not necessarily the best place to be. I think technology sort of, enables new sort of ways of thinking new business models, but also it poses challenges to incumbent organisations about how to not only deal with that, but then also deal with new ways of working as a consequence of the pandemic.

And I think that's going to necessitate a whole scale sort of reappraisal around what skills do we need in this economy in order for it to thrive. And it's interesting that when, there are, it's hard to imagine if you put yourself in the shoes of a young person today, how would you actually sell an employment proposition to that person from a large multinational or a large domestic organisation? When those individuals will talk to you about how they want to start up their own social enterprise, how they want to start up their own business. And so that's going to create interesting dynamics as to how do these large organisations attract, develop and retain individuals. And can they actually expect to retain those individuals for significant periods of time anymore?

Emma Lo Russo:
So how does the AGSM answer maybe that same question, right? How are you going to arm me, I'm thinking of my study, so I am going to be equipped to deal with all this change in the future. What do you see is that role?

Magnus Gittins:
Nick Wailes and I talk a lot about the importance of lifelong learning. So someone who graduated with an MBA in the late 90's, early 2000's will have graduated with an MBA that preceded the introduction of the iPhone. Now, how would that person with that MBA standing alongside someone who graduated last year, who's done digital marketing, who's done all of these other contemporary topics, and yet they have the same qualification from the same institution.

So in my mind, how would we sort of reauthenticate or if you like apply the Canstar to an MBA that demonstrates that it is always contemporary and always relevant. And that's where I think the notion of just in time learning, topping up learning, skilling, is something that AGSM can do. And I think that what we bring to the table there is the empirical rigour, the power of the UNSW Business School to actually to be if you like a disinterested party that knows that we can advise you on what skills you need and we've got the research behind the learning that actually assures the individual that they're getting a quality, well developed product.

Emma Lo Russo:
When you look to the future, what do you see is the perfect kind of relationship between organisations who know that they need to maybe up-skill their organisation and think about even their offering to employees in that lifelong learning and the education sector, and then its role in making sure Australia stays competitive or organisations stay competitive. What do you think is that model moving forward, to deal with the now of work or the future of work?

Magnus Gittins:
Yeah, so I think the notion of doing a three or four year degree, and then that's it, I think that notion has now been completely dispelled, given the occupational shifts and skilling shifts within the economy. So I think people knowing that they need to be in that learning mindset on a longer term basis beyond their foundational study, regardless of what that foundational study might be, is increasingly important. And I think as educators, but as educators who don't have, our proposition is we want to up-skill and that's it. We have no other dog in the hunt, we have no other desire other than to help people do better. So I think it's how do we translate that purpose into a learning proposition that is personalised, that is focused on job ready skills, that allows people to shift in their careers, to shift at their different stages in their lives, and how do we actually make that accessible to a broader population in the community as possible.

This is what is actually important right now, is actually being able to transpose entire categories of employment into new things. So when you look at the forecasted impact of automation to the accountancy profession, for example, well, we've got, I know the numbers because we're working with them, but Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand's got 166,000 members. Now, how do we help those members think about the future of their profession and their role within it, when automation increasingly takes away some of those day-to-day tasks, what then replaces those tasks? And I think that's where universities and other institutions can step in and assist because we do have the benefit of being able to educate at high volume and at a quality premium.

Emma Lo Russo:
What do you see the role for small business and learning and where does that also come into play, is it the same principles?

Magnus Gittins:
It's really interesting. So we at the AGSM have historically had what we call a Custom Learning Business and an Open Enrollment Business, and the open enrollment business was previously described as sort of a B2C, people sign up and they enrol. But when you look back and you peel back the data, what actually it says is that, that business, the open enrollments business, 95% of the participants in those programmes are having their fees paid for by a small to medium sized enterprise. So there's no lack of commitment from SMEs in terms of investing in their people and their high potential people, because we see 4,000 of these individuals every year. I think the question is how to improve accessibility and I think that's where the role of government thinking about how to unlock lifelong learning budgets, and align those with industry needs, and get better coordination between all parties can only help.

I mean, SMEs are the lifeblood of the economy and I think it would be to our collective disadvantage if they were excluded from those learning opportunities. So I think the good thing about technology enabled learning is it's reducing the cost of access and I think that will hopefully enable a greater sort of leverage of investment dollars by SMEs into their people, and sort of move beyond the high-potential, the person who's agitating to go onto a programme for all the right reasons, but how to actually get more people from that sector into a programme, can only be a good thing.

Emma Lo Russo:
Magnus, I love how you've set the context of don't think about it as a future of work, you need to make these changes now. I love that kind of call to arms in the now of work. So thank you for your time today on the 'Business Of'.

Magnus Gittins:
Thanks very much, Emma. I've really enjoyed the conversation.

Emma Lo Russo:
For me, this episode has really shone a light on the importance of digital literacy in leadership, and the need for continuous reskilling and up-skilling today’s workforce - not just in technology, but also in leadership skills. As Magnus said, the value of skills like adaptability and managing ambiguity can not be understated in an increasingly complex world that continues to change and undergo disruption.

One of the consequences of COVID-19 is that digital transformation has become a bigger imperative for organisations, and many are transforming much sooner than they had imagined. AI, machine learning and big data will continue to infuse all areas of business, and we as leaders have a responsibility to drive and support new skills for the job market of the future and to ensure our businesses stay relevant.

Thanks for listening to this episode of The Business Of. I’m Emma LoRusso, see you next time.