The Slovenia Times

Human contact will be the new luxury


Dominique Turcq is the Founder and President of the Boostzone Institute which forecasts how the evolution of our society and in particular the world of work, are affected by major forces such as the emergence of new technologies, new social dynamics and new economic conditions, and whether it will lead to a sea-change in the strategy and management of organisations. Dr Turcq was a permanent professor at HEC, ESCP and at INSEAD; he was a partner at McKinsey in the globalisation, war for talent and family-owned companies areas. He also directed strategy at ManpowerGroup as the SVP Strategy Global and he is closely associated with several multinationals in strategy formulation as it relates to the world of work.

At the IEDC Annual International Presidents Forum 2019 you talked about how neuroscience and biology will change our world, and how leaders should prepare. How are neuroscience and biology correlated with artificial intelligence, and what does it mean for business leaders?

I am not sure I would say there is a correlation, at least not an obvious one, except that both neuroscience and biology use a lot of computer power and a lot of artificial intelligence tools for their advancement. One could also say that the neuronal networks of AI are inspired by what neuroscientists have discovered on how our brain works; but frankly the two types of neuronal network, real and AI, are still very different animals. Also, some dreamers are working on using AI to record some elements of what happens in our brain or how to modify some elements of the brain (some memory chips have been used in rats...). One could also say that biology tries to understand how the brain develops and how some biases identified in neuroscience could be linked to biology. But all of these links are a bit artificial and most of them are still more science-fiction than science or are at the very early experimental phases. What I am mostly trying to show is that these technologies, correlated with each other or not (and they are only very slightly), are important for all of us because they collectively change the way society works, the way the labour market will work and therefore how leaders should prepare to integrate them into their leadership practice. In particular, leaders have to be ready to manage the extreme personalisation that these technologies will allow, how they will help to make better decisions, how they will all create new forms of inequalities and injustices, and how they will all require a greater sense of ethics.

You have invented the terms "augmented management" and "augmented leader". Can you explain them in practice? 

Just as some tools augment ourselves (glasses for seeing better, a smartphone for all of the apps it allows us to use), we need to augment our mind and our soft skills with new "programs" to put in our mind, like a better immune system against fake news, a better way to use collaborative intelligence, a better way to become more ethical. Augmented management is actually less technical, less digital tools oriented and more human oriented.

Which organisations would you say are the trendsetters in the field of "augmented management" and why?

I don't want to cite any specific organisation, but I believe that all organisations which are trying to clarify their "mission" in society, the social impact of their activities, their relation to the environment and to the various stakeholders, are on a clear path toward creating augmented managers and an augmented management.

The Boostzone Institute's R&D activities includes "The future of learning" and "The offices of tomorrow". Can you share the main highlights: what will change in the learning process and the kind of offices we will work from in the future?

A short question but it is hard to give a short answer! The most important points, in my view, will be how we will be able to use the knowledge of neuroscience to drastically redesign learning (how, what) and to redesign the work environment. We have to be ready to put into question remote working, e-meetings, flex office, open space offices, etc. 

It has been discussed several times that scientists are crossing ethical lines. Which challenges do we need to address from the perspective of today's rapid socio-technological transformation?

Scientists may sometimes cross some ethical lines, but it is not common, far from it! We are in a paradox: it is very hard to know what the consequences of an emerging technology will be and therefore to regulate it correctly when it emerges; and it is very hard to regulate it when it has taken important proportions. Just think of social networks. Nobody was seeing the importance they would take and nobody could think of the early regulation, and so today it is very hard to regulate these because they have taken such an importance. The same is true with every technology. However, it does not mean one should just give up regulating. On the contrary, we clearly need more coordination, more ethical committees, more privacy protection regulation, more protection against fake news. It is possible and all the authorities are working on it. 

We need more national and international regulations. They will, however, have to be fast and continuously evolving in order to adapt to the evolution of technology and to the social acceptance of their impact. Assisted procreation was not easily accepted at the start, today it is in many countries. Today, modifying human embryos is not accepted, but no one knows how our society is going to evolve. Ethical and social debates will have to be taken regularly into account.

You already had an idea of the social networks before the Facebook phenomenon. Can you share more about it and why, on the other hand, some social media channels - e.g. Facebook are losing their popularity? Where do you see the next milestone? 

The explosion of social networks was obvious even before the arrival of Facebook. Remember, some social networks like were existing well before Facebook. The potential to communicate horizontally and the emergence of the web 2.0 (the interaction) were clearly the signs of a social revolution to come. To me, the weak signs that social networks would change society and corporations (via horizontality and collaboration) were actually very strong signals of major changes to come.

I believe several things will happen with social networks in the near future: some fragmentation (by geographies, by usage and by users); some control on content (in particular fake news) by the networks themselves; some more regulation for controlling, even if only partially, the manipulation of echo chambers and filter bubbles via fake news; and more usage of AI for performing those controls. This does not mean that the negative sides of social networks will disappear, such as political manipulation, but one can hope that they will be better controlled and that users will become more careful about how they use them. 

What, in your opinion, is defining the comparative advantage of the companies?

To me, the most important comparative advantage, in the near future, is the ability to reinvent human contact. We have been deprived of human contact because of an extreme digitalisation of interactions. We see less humans and too many screens. 

Human contact will be the new luxury and the new way to provide value to consumers and employees and stakeholders. In some cases, we will be ready to pay for more contacts with humans and, in some cases, companies will have to provide more human contact just to keep their customers. We will not accept talking only to robots and dealing only with apps or machines. Not in all cases, obviously, but in all those where some humanity is needed. It might be in talking to a salesman, a banking advisor; it might be the welcome in a hotel or in a shop or in a gas station. It will be when one needs human care for oneself or for one's family member, etc. New business models will develop, new schemes of competition will emerge. The extreme personalisation that all those technologies allow should be an incentive to reinvent human contact.


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