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From the Ski Slopes of Davos to the Boardrooms of Europe

2019 Davos
Talent Intelligence
Data Ethics

From the Ski Slopes of Davos to the Boardrooms of Europe

Hopefully, you caught Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work founder Ben Pring share his three excellent insights on...

7 Minutes Read

Hopefully, you caught Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work founder Ben Pring share his three excellent insights on 2019’s Davos. Lots to chew on there, from the rise of 5G (and 6G) to the recognition that the most famous and influential among us get star-struck too! From the headlines, however, we can see that the key technologies now arrived (or just around the corner) will change everything. Artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, big data, 5G, and 3D printing, are poised to remake our world and the work people do. Our team in Europe put together some trends for European firms in 2019 that follow the Davos zeitgeist.

1. From machine learning to deep learning

The field of artificial intelligence is evolving rapidly, and in 2019 we will begin to see the first commercial uses of deep learning systems—these will replace machine learning in certain functions. Simply put machine learning requires immense amounts of data and examples to “program” itself to understand images and scenarios (cue China and the sheer volume of data it collects on everything). Whereas, deep learning requires significantly fewer examples and can operate independently of an internet connection. The hardware to support this type of learning is already widely available; intel’s Nirvana chipset and even the A12 bionic chip in the iPhone XS (Max) and XR, are examples. Deep learning excels at label-less, unstructured and unsupervised learning scenarios and we expect the first commercial impacts of this tech to come to fruition in oil exploration, energy grid management, medical diagnosis and border policing in 2019. Watch out for our report on these early applications of AI in Q2. And if you want to understand why AI is such a hot-potato at Davos, then we recommend reading AI Super Powers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order.

2. Organizations begin to view the machine as a trusted colleague.

It’s with a certain degree of trepidation we’ve seen systems of intelligence enter the workplace. Already these systems are augmenting highly skilled professionals in white collared industries such as healthcare and finance. And many, including the mainstream media, have viewed the emergence of these new systems as the beginning of the end for swathes of human workers. However, as outlined in our take two years ago, 21 jobs of the future (and 21 more last year); new jobs will be born off the back of these new technologies.

In 2019 we expect organizations in Europe to double down on deploying systems of intelligence within their operations and building new talent pools of human workers to facilitate interactions between man and machine. Already we’ve seen Man Machine Managers (as predicted in 21 Jobs of the Future) come to fruition, and as workers and organizations become increasingly more comfortable with these systems, so will new roles and processes emerge to support our new digital colleagues. BTW, there was a great question asked on this at Davos from our Ben to Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella: it touched on how to help the swathes of aging workers adjust to the fourth industrial revolution. We still need an answer.

3. From Plastic to Package-Free

Did you see Britain’s Prince William interview David Attenborough on stage at Davos? In 2018 the world woke up to the devastating impact of plastic waste in our oceans and started to question ways to fix our throw-away culture. Now that awareness is peaking; the tech sector has to respond. Getting ahead of the game, Google has recently announced a new £19m fund, Impact Challenge, for businesses using AI to address environmental and social issues.

Innovative solutions to the plastic crisis will continue to crop up. British cosmetics company, Lush, have been long-standing proponents of waste reduction – over 40% of their range is package-free. But now they’ve gone one step further. Powered by Tensorflow from Google, the Lush Lens app uses AI and product recognition to eliminate the need for packaging – with simple information popping up on your screen instead. With this tech in tow, they are trialing a store in Milan that is 100% package free.

We expect an increasing number of tech giants to follow in Google’s footsteps in 2019 with innovative solutions to the world’s toughest sustainability challenges. And all we can say is about time.

4. Smart Talent Technology really Takes Off.

Every weekday we toggle between two disparate experiences – the consumer vs. the employee. The consumer has become accustomed to tailored digital experiences powered by personal data: shopping (Amazon), banking (Monzo), fitness (MyFitnessPal), entertainment (Netflix). 2019 will see the widespread adoption of people analytics to fuel the development of employee experiences that – finally – rival consumer experiences. Employee data, advanced analytics, and AI will deepen employers’ understanding of human behaviors at work. Examples include:

  • Tackling human bias in talent management. Augmenting human decision-making with insights from impartial AI will reduce the impact of human bias in recruitment, promotion and development processes.
  • The growth of Smarter Workplaces. Workplaces powered by sensors, IoT and big data will support employee health, wellbeing and productivity. Want to learn more? Then read our take on why we think Space Matters.
  • Learning and development that truly delivers. Just as the fitness industry monitors health goals in real-time, people analytics will ensure the organization treat skills fitness in the same way, creating hyper-personalized learning programmes.

For people analytics to succeed, organizations must be quick to focus on securing employees’ trust with robust ethical and privacy measures communicated upfront. We’ve written about this last year in our study on Talent Intelligence, and we expect that intelligence and the best practice around it, to grow in 2019.

5. From transformative innovation to ethical innovation

Ethics will increasingly shape technology decision making in 2019 as concerns about the ethics of artificial intelligence and the ethics surrounding the use of customer data accelerate. Corporate brands will start establishing strong governance surrounding AI as machines move into process work and government regulators begin to bite. We even saw the UK government start to build a center for data ethics and innovation in 2018, as a sign of things to come.

Expect to see firms forming new multidisciplinary boards that impact technology investment and its adoption. These boards will oversee the strategic use of data and will comprise economists, philosophers, lawyers, and customer representatives. They will work on advising companies on how to develop ethically designed, data-driven products and services. Expect to hear more about “ethical innovation” in 2019 as people and machines increasingly mesh together.

Augmenting human skills with ethically designed, data-driven technology has the potential to enable the business to prosper to extraordinary levels, but fairness must be prioritized. Other new methods beyond the advisory boards will emerge in 2019 to troubleshoot, judge and redress data grievances, so stakeholders perceive fairness — Davos in a nutshell – the theme for this event was “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.”

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