We’re almost at the end of January and I’ve already had a rewarding month delivering an updated Digital Marketing module at Nanyang Business School, launching my new Digital Business Transformation module for the MBA at NUS, exploring brand data for a large bank, and running an intensive 2-day team & facilitation workshop for QSR (Pizza Hut & KFC) in Kuala Lumpur. I wanted to document some of themes that are driving me this year and guiding the work I choose to do and hopefully maximise the value I create.

We’re living through crazy times.  The world feels unhappy at a macro level while just about holding it together beneath the surface. The twin forces of digital change and artificial intelligence, and political, economic and climate instability feel like they are shaping most of the conversions; the first leading to job losses and career fears for students and clients, the second creating suspicion and division and diminishing the mood for collaboration and brave experimentation. 

I cannot directly address wars, the terrible politics of Trump and others, and existential crises such as climate and future pandemics in my classes and workshops but I can acknowledge the background anxieties and tensions they create and how they magnify worries about jobs, roles and leadership in a world of increasing automation and large language modules.

I’m personally finding the novelty of ChatGPT, Dall-E, Claude, Proximity, Copilot and many others  both exhilarating and scary. These tools, especially given they are still first generation, feel transformative. I spend many hours debating connections between ideas with ChatGPT and have virtually given up on search (replacing Google completely with DuckDuckGo on my devices). I’m also spending far more time in the library reading academic papers trying to go back to the sources in psychology, neuroscience, group behaviour, networks and many other disciplines. I’m complimenting this with long newsletter reads and daily long podcasts listens. I don’t want answers, I want debate, opinions and questions. This feels like an upgrade on the information landscape replacing the triviality of social media and news feeds. 

This changing environment has made me go back and look at what I deliver in both my academic and professional work. I have always been about helping people explore the impact of digital on organisations and individuals but highlighting both people and machines feels more important than ever. All my recent client work has involved developing teams (paths to bravery, creativity, alignment and trust) as well as demystifying the latest digital advances (through exploration, making and reflection on personal and organisational impacts).

I’m struck by the need to think about the promises we make to each other as well as the promises that were made for digital over the last twenty years. The first set of promises feels more important than ever as the second set have so rarely been kept. Making new promises feels important as we decide where to use AI, how to delight customers and how to transform our organisations.  I cannot run a workshop on AI without it being about people and I cannot run a workshop on leadership without it acknowledging the rapidly changing (and technology led) environment around us.

I reread two books over the December holidays: Atomic Habits by James Clear and Eat, Sleep, Innovate by my friend Paul Cobban, Scott Anthony and others. They are worth reading but particularly to allow the ideas from both to be blended together. The second is more relevant for my professional work with teams and organisations but the first contains a simple model that I will try to apply this year.  

Here is a visual sketch of how I see cultural transformation in a world of AI for 2024 and beyond. It introduces five linked areas of work around which transformation programmes and courses can be built. 

  • Explore: Spend time immersing ourselves in what is happening (particularly around AI but well beyond just LMMs). Think about our future and creative possibilities and opportunities. 
  • Identify: Define and debate the big personal, team and organisational goals for the future. Use James Clear’s approach of thinking about our future identity rather than business results.  
  • Change: Design small changes with rapid potential impacts. This aligns well will Paul Cobban’s notion of Beans (Behaviours, Enablers, Artefacts and Nudges) as well as James Clear’s design of new habits. 
  • Remove: Find and eliminate the reasons why change cannot happen. Most changes are like New Year’s resolutions and cannot be sustained or spread (beyond an initial group of enthusiasts). Uncover the barriers and assumptions that prevent transformation.
  • Reflect: Turn every change experiment into learning, and create rewards and stories that amplify successes to other parts of our organisations. 

Each area of work includes activities, tools and models to help explore the ideas. The goal is to create a connected plan for transformation with a set of possible changes aligned to a future vision, removing barriers and a roadmap for teams to learn from these change experiments.

This feels like a good lens through which align my work this year and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with friends and clients to further develop it.


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