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“Automation and AI will be the end of the middle class, jobs and society.” the Guardian reported in 2016 – the same year as Waymo announced self-driving cars and Amazon Alexa was launched.  Offering an alternative view, Steve Jobs stated “Technology is nothing compared to people. If you give smart people with good intentions advanced tools, they’ll create a better future”.

Today, over 75% of corporate leaders are doubling their technology investment to gain competitive advantage, streamline operations and empower people to dream, design and enhance solutions.  And, it’s working.  Companies which are embracing technology and encouraging smart people to explore, use, integrate technology are already reporting 5% EBITDA results (BCG ’24).

Advanced technology, i.e. AI, robotics, IOT, VR and quantum computing is anticipated to grow at an unprecedented rate over the next 5 years fueled in part by over 40bn USD annual investment – from public, private, academic and financial investors.

This rapid acceleration of technological power coincides with momentous societal transformation – economically, geopolitically, and environmentally. However for many, the future of work with AI, robotics, virtual reality and accelerated compute power can be scary and intimidating. The key for future-ready success is integrating people AND technology – empowering team members to explore, learn and adapt one step at a time.

In late ’23, we completed an in-depth study of 25 global companies’ approach to advanced technology evaluation, integration and scaling. The organizations that achieved the greatest success were those with a strong innovation culture, a growth mindset, customer-first attitude and structured innovation process achieved the greatest success.

This article summarizes the findings and provides leaders and their teams with actionable takeaways they can use to win with advanced technology – today into the future.

Corporate decision making within the rapid evolution of technology

Since 2020, technology evolution has fundamentally changed work, /corporations  and people – across all industries.  Amazon, Alibaba, Uber, mobile wallets and app payment systems have redefined retail, food service and finance. Video collaboration, virtual and augmented reality simulations and digital twins have enabled seamless remote work experiences, while AI frees workers from mundane, repetitive tasks.

Behind the scenes, robotics and Internet of Things (IoT) networks of sensor-enabled devices are used to power factories, warehouses, logistics, home automation, healthcare, and transportation.  Globally,  investment in technology  is anticipated to grow to $40 bn per year by 2030 (Forrester).

With the rapidly increasing power and adoption of advanced technology, the corporate planning horizon has decreased from a standard of 5-10 years in 2016 to 6-18 months today. This means leaders must make 600% more decisions about technology, operations and people than in the past.

The companies studied are evaluating, experimenting, implementing and succeeding in use of advanced technology through:

  • Structured processes to identify, evaluate, select and monitor results of new tools and
  • Continual learning programs combined with collaborative approaches to share insights
  • Empowered team members exploring, trying and evaluating new technologies
  • Innovative ‘future-ready mindset’ demonstrated openly by the executive team and all within
    the organization

Commitment + Process Pays Off

Of the twenty companies (in retail, transportation, entertainment, finance, life sciences, research, technology, public services) studied, all started with clear recognition that ‘business as usual’ is no longer feasible. Their commitment to adapt, shift and win in the new world was shared openly from the executive level throughout the ranks.  Those showing the greatest results from investment in advanced technology demonstrated:

  • Commitment to explore and utilize advanced technology to maintain or grow their market position and avoid disruption.
  • Growth mindset – all within the organization encouraged to view technology as a powerful tool to solve problems, create new solutions, seize market share while increasing value through operational efficiency.
  • A strong culture of learning and innovation in which leaders empowered employees to explore, try new technology to solve challenges, fail, pivot and grow.
  • Human-centricity with open communications internally and with customers about challenges, opportunities and technology.
  • Innovation processes – structured processes for new developments, adoption, monitoring and tracking results.

Overall, the most successful companies empowered people to delve into unsolved problems, explore technical tools, take action, evaluate and pivot when necessary.

Focus on real customer concerns and problem statements

The companies most successful in leveraging advanced technology started with a clear problem statement or customer need. Selection, use and integration of advanced technology was very purpose-driven vs companies that invest in general purpose tools i.e. with an attitude of ‘let’s try this’.

For many including IKEA, DNB, Schneider Electric, Novartis, SGS, Posten, Adobe, RMIT and Spirax Sarco, technology is embedded into the business fabric.. New tools (AI, VR, robotics, blockchain) are evaluated based on their probability of solving a real problem, creating new customer value or improving a process.

A pragmatic people-oriented approach is used by Spirax Sarco to prioritise their technology investments for plant maintenance and customer satisfaction. According to Paul Lee, APAC Division President, being able to monitor and collect data is the first step to solving customer problems. In fact predictive AI tools sometime address issues even before a customer knows they have them.  “In the steam thermal management sector, we can [remotely] collect data from our customers operations and detect problems as they begin to occur.” This allows accurate identification of opportunities to enhance efficiency and productivity which drive customer value.

By starting with the ‘problem to be solved’, rather than beginning with technology looking for a problem, leaders can maximize return on investments. Randstad Sourceright’s Managing Director for Asia Pacific, Anthea Collier, noted, “First make sure that you fully understand what your problem and business requirement document is. Carefully define your problem statement, then review suppliers that are able to deliver against it. Test and test again to see, does this actually solve the original problem?”

Rohit Sathe, Chief Procurement and Supply Chain Officer of a medical device company shared his experiences analysing advanced technology investment returns. It starts with understanding the potential for top line growth or competitive advantage i.e. improvements in efficiency while meeting customer needs. After needs are clear, they collaborate with suppliers to test possible solutions.

Biomedical engineer, Eugenio Grapa, stressed the importance of understanding new technologies and separating trends from actual innovations that can be adopted. As former leader in health care and  current CTO of start-ups  &ahead and Supplino, he emphasizes  the need for a solid business case with reasonable implementation costs is critical prior to an investment in technology.

The results can be striking. After implementing AI to process routine insurance claims, VanAmeyde Group retrained over 100 agents in problem solving, sales and customer service skills. This resulted in increased revenue, NPS scores and employee satisfaction ratings. Piet Middelkoop, Van Ameyde CEO, “Technology is not a threat but way to enhance work life by allowing people to learn, develop and take on more stimulating jobs”.

Advanced technology frees humans – to create, innovate, communicate and solve complex problems.  While basic manual tasks may be handled by technology, there is a growing need for people – to design, plan, discern validity, evaluate, make decisions, address health care, scientific and societal needs. In addition, a technology adoption accelerates, people skills i.e. customer service, empathy, negotiation become more critical.  Corporate leaders see an increasing need for people with strong ‘human skills’. This is consistent with Forbes’ prediction that during 2024 alone 93 million new jobs will be created as companies adopt AI.

Innovation processes speed adoption and organizational learning

All of the companies reviewed used structured innovation processes such as Innovation Boards, hackathons, incubation programs and/or  learning labs to ideate, explore and adopt new technology.

Within TechnicFMC, SGS, RoboBank’s  structured innovation processes, the Executive Team defines improvement priorities then empowers the Innovation Board to identify, vet and bring forth the most effective technologies to address the needs. During a 6 – 12 week agile process, prototypes are developed, tested then evaluated for potential to scale.

Industry collaboration provides access leading edge technology innovation.  DNB invests in the regional innovation ecosystem to identify relevant start-ups for 6 to 18 months incubation with mentorship with the New Technology Innovation team. “By working with the founders and teams of leading advanced technology startups, we gain valuable insights while evaluating the technology to address internal or customer needs,”  Yngvar Ugland, Exec VP NewTech Lab, DNB.

Standard Chartered leverages real-world cases to from their industry to develop their employees’ change mindsets and skillsets.  According to Blums Pineda, former innovation head, “Ultimately, innovation is not about spreading bets but investing into things with a clear vision of what success looks like. Collaboration and shared learning across industry use cases sped our development process”.

Other companies including IKEA, empower employees to think differently and question the ‘norm’ in their daily work. When unmet needs are identified, they run hackathons and then empower cross-organizational teams to try (and sometimes fail) new approaches.  Through this approach, they have designed new green products, optimized the supply chain and 3D Printed products including their famous Swedish meatballs.

Growth mindsets drive successful adoption of advanced technology

By understanding needs then empowering team members to learn collaboratively in innovation centers, learning labs and customer workshops, leaders are building and demonstrating a culture of innovation.  Udemy, Posten and Adobe have implemented structured learning processes through which people meet regularly  (generally weekly) to share, challenge and learn from one another’s experience. Their greatest ‘ah ha’ was that team members with a growth mindset can quickly capitalize on new opportunities as they arise.

Eugenio Grapa, CTO Supplino highlighted the importance of proper training of employees and early involvement of in selection of new tools. Building training and upskilling into the implementation plan decreases resistance and increases engagement.   Jenny Chan von Meyenburg, creative agency director explains, “a culture of curiosity and a ‘tinkering mindset’ overcomes fear and resistance”. With her team, she regularly allocates time to learn, explore new technologies as well as  monthly rituals to have fun while learning.

This shows that leaders who put people first and encourage a growth mindset regarding advanced technology have the greatest potential for success.

Moving Forward

Leaders with a growth mindset who are focused on solving problems and addressing customer needs are well positioned for success with advanced technology today into the future. Those with structured innovation processes, a continuous learning culture and empowered employees will thrive in the evolving landscape. Data driven decision making, open collaboration and ethical
leadership will power continued value creation through human contributions powered by advanced technology.

It starts with:

  • Embracing change and the growth of advanced technology – to complement human ingenuity
  • Problem solving and value creation through use of AI and other tools
  • Exploration and use of new approaches to address challenges
  • Collaboration to share learnings and celebrate wins
  • Empowerment of people to think differently, try, learn, pivot and scale solutions to create greater value

By leveraging advanced technology AND human ingenuity, leaders can accelerate their business results. While AI and automation are impacting jobs, people and society, our study shows that Steve Jobs was right – by giving smart people with good intentions advanced tools leaders will create a better future.


Study conducted and article written by Jennifer Vessels, AI / Future of Work Strategist, Keynote Speaker and Advisor. She can be reached Jennifer@JenniferVessels.com or + 47 902 30 982.