The Lead: Annual United Nations General Assembly, Retail Giant Zalando Leveraging AI, DeepMind’s Discovery Could Shake Big Pharma

Welcome to The Lead, AchieveForum’s weekly brief of leadership news and insights. This curated content will provide you with quick clarity into relevant headlines and provide straight-forward analysis for applying effective leadership tools and techniques. 

Annual United Nations General Assembly

This week marks the 74th year for the annual United Nations General Assembly, and 91 heads of state have committed to attend the summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. The top priority at this year is the world’s climate emergency as world leaders look to stop rising global temperatures, achieve carbon neutrality, and dramatically cut carbon emissions.

Our View: Summits, conferences, and meetings are great venues to listen to influential speeches and get inspiration, but mobilizing action is exceedingly difficult. Consider leading a post conference debrief with your team after relevant learning events. Encourage participants to review their notes from the event and categorize important insights under big ideas, trends, potential pitfalls, and new opportunities. Discuss how lessons learned can be converted into actions that improve current practices. Further Reading

Related AchieveForum content: Trends Shared at Adobe Summit 2019

Retail Giant Zalando Leveraging AI

Europe’s leading online fashion platform Zalando is leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence to provide a personalized user experience to its 27 million customers. Zalando developed a digital outfit recommendation tool to drive business and help customers choose outfits among the vast sea of possibilities. The tool is not without limitations since people aren’t always shopping for themselves and celebrities and other influencers can impact shopping in ways artificial intelligence can’t pick up on yet, but Zalando’s AI expertise goes beyond fashion and its digital recommendation tool. Zalando extends its influence to promote the “use technology to increase supply chain transparency” with its zIMPACT program, where it offers financial support and guidance to several startups with similar goals.

Our View: Corporate-startup collaborations are increasingly emerging as ways for both parties to grow and innovate. Ecosystem collaborations like hackathons, startup competitions, and conferences are also becoming more popular and impactful. These collaborations involve the sharing of knowledge, activities, and resources with the aim of staying relevant and fresh to clients. Adele Every, vice president of Capgemini, explains, “If we’re not constantly looking at how the market is evolving and what new communities are spinning up in emerging technologies, then we’re not on the cutting edge of technology anymore. We use our community of startups and SMEs to help us stay connected. It’s self-fulfilling in that when you start creating these communities, you start pitching each other’s credentials and share networks.” Further Reading

Related AchieveForum content:  Leading in the Digital Matrix

DeepMind’s Discovery Could Shake Big Pharma

Alphabet’s company and artificial intelligence lab, DeepMind, beat several biologists in a contest to predict the shape of a protein based on its genetic code. This discovery has implications for Big Pharma as AI companies and non-biologists run in the race for new drug discoveries. Large pharmaceutical companies are investing in startups that may later be their direct competitors, but their ability to fund startup experiments and innovative ideas could help them compete with AI rivals like DeepMind.

Our View: Uncertainty surrounding competition creates immense stress for leaders. When leaders understand their competition and the market forces that drive them, they can focus on long-term value creation and innovating around the needs of the market. Competition poses threats, but it can also illuminate opportunities. When leaders develop their competitive strategy, they should identify current and potential threats and then prioritize them based on perceived risk/reward and cost/benefit scenarios. Further Reading

Related AchieveForum content: Making Strategy Work, Leading Change

Promoting Digital Inclusion Around the World

The Gates Foundation has identified a tech ‘trinity’ that can boost digital inclusion around the world. Bank accounts, cell phones, and biometric identification could help distribute resources more efficiently and equitably in developing countries and promote digital inclusion. Examples of these technologies making a difference is already noticeable, and in India this tech ‘trinity’ enabled 75 million poor, rural women to benefit from subsidized gas stoves. Mobile phones alone have the ability to crowdsource data in real time, and this can be used to catalog vaccine coverage, gather feedback from farmers, and gain other valuable insights to raise the standard of living across the globe.

Our View: Promoting basic digital skills and assess to the internet can help everyone live better in today’s world. The challenge for leaders involves the greater need for advanced technology skills and big picture understanding, while simultaneously, there is a growing skills shortage. To take advantage of disruptive new digital technologies, leaders must invest in new tech talent, find and train non-tech workers, and build a culture where everyone can see themselves as part of the new workforce. As jobs become obsolete at an alarming rate, developing problem solving skills, creativity, and critical thinking skills, along with the requisite technology skills, becomes paramount to help workers cope with the rapidly changing landscape. Further Reading

Related AchieveForum content: Leading in a Digital Age, Leading in the Digital Matrix

Music is in the Ear of the Beholder

Researchers from MIT have discovered that perception of musical pitch varies across cultures and depends on music that people are accustomed to listening to. This finding about how people interpret musical notes differently depending on music they have listened to before gives clues into “what the parts of the perceptual system are.”

Our View: Everyone perceives the world in different ways. Leaders must manage perceptions and develop self-awareness about their own biases and perceptual errors that can lead to poor decision-making. You can address your own perceptual biases by collecting and consciously using more information about people and events before arriving at decisions. Avoid making quick judgements about people and events. Self-awareness can be leveraged to understand your own personal biases and the biases of others, and this understanding can better inform your individual and group decisions. Further Reading

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