Cognitive transformation, intelligent automation, artificial intelligence and robotics are changing the workplace worldwide. As this revolution unfolds, no business will stay the same. The transformative power unleashed by tech giants is making traditional firms irrelevant. Having e-commerce capabilities or tech departments is not enough. In fact, recent history shows that despite making significant investments in technology, traditional companies have failed to effectively compete with the fast encroaching tech giants. The real reasons for failure are not in their inability to invest in technology, it is in their lack of understanding the Pure-Play leadership. A calm, courageous and authentic leadership style that is not averse to taking bold risks, Pure-Play values scientists and researchers and gives them a seat at the boardroom strategy table.
How can the leaders of the traditional firms transform their companies to effectively compete in the cognitive era? Learn the lessons from a beaver who is trying to save his beaver colony after a devastating flood. Nature teaches us powerful lessons and even the most complex and mysterious things can be simplified in its lab. ‘The Beaver Bot of Yellowstone’ is for leaders who don’t have the time or the patience to read thousands of pages of research and thesis but want to get to the bottom of the leadership principles for the cognitive era.
True leaders will take the helm and do what the beaver leader did. They will save their companies from annihilation by leading the artificial intelligence revolution. All that can be learned in a reading that lasts no more than a one-way Chicago–DC flight.
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About the Author
Al Naqvi is a pioneer researcher in applied artificial intelligence in business and strategy and professor at the American Institute of Artificial Intelligence. He is also the executive director of the Society of Artificial Intelligence in Medicine and Healthcare.
J. Mark Munoz is a tenured full professor of international business at the Millikin University, USA. A former visiting fellow at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, USA, Munoz is a world-renowned international consultant and the author of several books.
Read an Excerpt
As the world enters the fourth industrial revolution, you have two simple choices: lead or perish. The problem: the cognitive transformation is sweeping through the global economy, and it is not like anything traditional leaders have ever experienced before.
As retail, financial services, health care and auto sectors are discovering, the rise of intelligent automation is redefining the rules of competition. It is also changing the dynamics of leadership.
If leaders do not learn quickly, it is highly likely that their careers and their firms will perish. The intelligent automation revolution will be far more unforgiving than the Internet or the information revolution were.
There are good reasons for that prognosis.
First, nothing you have done in the past has prepared you for what lies ahead. In fact, most of your leadership skills from the past are irrelevant and inapplicable to what is needed.
Second, it is quite possible that you have not fully grasped the enormity of the cognitive revolution. You may still be trapped in the information revolution — trying to compete based on information and process superiority. That is not enough anymore. The new competitive advantage is "intelligent automation."
Third, your company's culture may still be recouping and recovering after the shift from the second to the third industrial revolution (i.e., transitioning to the Internet and information age) and oblivious that the fourth industrial revolution is already upon you.
Fourth, in this revolution your greatest leadership challenge will be to keep the regular business system stable, while aggressively pursuing the new pure-play leadership.
Most organizations and their leaders are lightyears behind the pure-play leaders of this new revolution. This is not just a tech revolution. It is not just an automation play. This revolution is being shaped by those who are bold, daring, ambitious and extraordinarily bright. For them, holding multiple PhDs is like owning shirts. They come from diverse fields such as neuroscience, cognitive science, computer science, mathematics, linguistics, biology, political science, public policy and others. Some are MDs and PhDs, others engineers; and medical schooling and lifelong learning are not burdens but fun and adventure for them. Education is not meant to be a paycheck generator, but instead a vehicle for unleashing creativity to solve complex problems. Their purpose in life is not to become a monotonous cog in some corporate machine but instead to design and deploy intelligent machines that are transforming human civilization. Some are still in their 20s and others are 75-year-old professors. But what is common among them is their genius and creativity. Their work ethic is astonishing, and their sheer will to persevere under pressure immense. Most importantly, their commitment to ongoing research and openness in sharing information has propelled and shaped this revolution.
If you think you can compete with them with your traditional tech teams and workforce, think again.
If you think you can buy technology from them, forget it. They are not making the technology to sell to you. They are making the technology to automate what your firm does. They are replacing your business models with better business models.
If you think you can get your traditional consulting firms to rescue you, save yourself some big bucks and disappointment. The traditional consulting firms are now worried about their own existence and are just as perplexed as their clients.
In fact, your choices are limited. Compete and lead with the pure-play style, buy out the pure-play innovators, or wait for your near-certain demise.
However, competing with them will require you become a pure-play leader.
Walmart had limited choices. For years, the large retailer suffered from incursions by Amazon. But unlike many others who folded, Walmart decided to fight back and to do it with the pure-play style. The mighty undertaking is now showing results. Walmart realized that fighting back is not enough — it needed to be done the pure-play way. For example, other retailers, from Macy's to Nordstrom and JC Penny to Sears, thought they had chosen to fight back, but were in the game too little, too late. Most importantly, unlike Walmart, they were not able to mobilize the power of the pure-play leadership.
You see, pure-play leadership is different than regular leadership. It is authentic. It is all out. It is aggressive. It is bold. It is dynamic. Most importantly, it is cool.
Regardless of what you do or which sector you are in, you are now in direct competition with the AI firms. Yes, Google, Amazon and Apple are AI firms — and, yes, they will compete with you in everything from the grocery business to health care to the auto industry — but there are thousands more. These little startups — from China, the United States, Israel, Canada, India, the UK and other countries — are coming for you and your business.
Brace yourself, since in one stroke of innovation, they will replace your business model, improve and automate your core cognitive and physical processes, annihilate your economic interests and make you irrelevant.
It does not matter how big you are or how much you spend on the traditional R&D. It does not matter how large your tech departments are since this revolution is not just about information technology. It does not matter how many bright people you can hire. It does not matter how strong your supply chain is. If you do not have the fundamentals of the pure-play leadership right, you are destined to lose.
You are not ready because this is not what business schools trained you for. You are not ready because this is not what any school (even science, technology or engineering) educated you for. You were not meant to encounter the rise of machines so soon, so mightily. You were meant to operate and compete in a world with machines subservient to humans and not machines with a mind of their own. In fact, human civilization was not meant to be confronted by such a formidable force so unexpectedly. But it has happened and now you must adapt.
However, that is only half the story. The real issue is that, unlike pure-play leaders who have single-focus startups to manage, you must handle your existing business while simultaneously seeking the cognitive competitive advantage. So, while the term pure-play business may imply a single product or service-focused business, pure-play leadership is more than that.
Pure-play leadership is defined as the ability to effectively lead a firm from a traditional to a cognitive business through a systematic and disciplined effort such that the firm expands and leverages its incumbent advantage while simultaneously fostering new cognitive capabilities.
For a pure-play leader, all firms are now tech firms. They do not discriminate between tech and non-tech since they know that the competition for any business is coming not just from inside the sector, but also from the tech. Tesla is less an auto company and more a tech firm. The difference between incumbent firms and pure-play tech firms is simple. A non-tech firm asks the question: we make cars, how can we use technology to build better cars? A pure-play tech firms asks the question: we are a tech firm; how can we make cars?
Imitating the pure-play style is not enough. Since pure-play is about authenticity, the saying "fake it till you make it" does not work. It is a different frame of mind. It is not about wearing jeans or sandals to work or having earrings or long hair. It is also not about being a tech genius. It is not about placing ping-pong tables in workplaces and giving employees free soda. It is about authentic pure-play leadership.
One of the present authors had the opportunity to visit the headquarters of a major retailer in Chicago. Once a legendary brand name, this retailer has struggled to stay alive. Tired of failing, the leadership decided to emulate Amazon's strategy. So, they hired a large tech team, opened offices in India and attempted to act like a tech firm. They placed ping-pong and pool tables for employees and tried to act all techy.
But their culture and capabilities were not genuinely pure-play. It was phony, and all those things seemed pretentious. It was like a gazelle trying to act like a leopard. There was no authenticity. The company's culture was infested with turf battles, old-style managers pursuing politics, backbiting and power plays. One could see that despite all the entertainment contraptions, employees seemed fearful, demotivated and depressed. Key talent brought in from the high-tech firms left. Not surprisingly, the retailer continues to be on life support.
The same author also studied one of the world's largest financial companies that specialized in the mortgage industry. Situated in Northern Virginia, this firm also attempted to act like a tech firm. It hired tons of tech talent and thought that it had become a tech firm. Ironically, despite claiming to be a tech firm, the firm only promoted people from business backgrounds to senior positions. What ensued was the same old drama, political games, posturing and silos. In fact, hiring all the IT talent had the opposite effect. Every VP and director began launching his or her own pet projects. Without any coordinated tech strategy, plan or vision, in a matter of few years a complex spaghetti of systems appeared. Then the firm had to hire external consultants just so they could take an inventory of thousands of systems and figure out how they were linked to each other. All this while the firm suffered heavy losses and was eventually placed in conservatorship.
Clearly, leaders of traditional businesses need to develop pure-play leadership traits and styles. Our objective is to teach you the basics. But we want to do it with a fable. We believe that the lessons learned in the story we are about to tell you will be transformational and memorable.
While our story could have transpired in the realm of intelligent machines and artificial intelligence labs, we want to take you to the greatest pure-play lab of all: Nature.
Nature is a great teacher. It offers a solutions lab that has perfected its answers with millions of years of experimentation and optimization.
As humans appeared on the canvas of this planet, the first cognitive revolution took shape in this lab. As we prepare for the second cognitive revolution, we need to seek lessons from the first. Wisdom that is as basic as rocks and trees, as mountains and creeks, as trails and lakes will guide you to learn the most powerful lessons. The wisdom of the universe is embedded in nature. Here is the story that will stay with you and teach you the basics of pure-play leadership.
Cognitive Competition: The CEO Challenge
It all began when three strangers serendipitously discovered a lost treasure of ancient wisdom.
It was pure fate, chance or luck — but it was the best thing that happened to these individuals, and it happened when they least expected it.
All of them had felt this awkward pressure, but none of them could place a finger on why.
None of them went out searching for the solution to the problem they knew little about, but each could sense that it existed. In fact, they did not even know where to begin.
They were attendees at a conference in Wyoming's Yellowstone area. Other than that, the only thing common among them was that they were the CEOs of major companies. Henry was the CEO of an auto giant, Nancy was the CEO of a health care/pharma system and Bob was the CEO of a large retailer.
In one of the exercises at the conference, executives were required to network and share business problems and issues with one another. They were divided into teams of three and then sent to different parts of the Grand Teton and Yellowstone Park areas — and there they were expected to reflect upon their key issues and opportunities. Nancy, Henry and Bob ended up being on the same team. Each team was assigned a facilitator.
It was in the early morning hours when Dennis, their guide and facilitator, picked them up at the front entrance of the hotel. He was driving a Ford truck. It was so early that families with children were still fast asleep in their hotel rooms. A whole day of activities in the Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks is almost as tiring as a day spent at Disney World.
As the three executives hopped into Dennis's truck, they were quiet, distant and reserved. But that was about to change.
Dennis was pleasant, cheerful and seemed very welcoming. He introduced himself and asked the others to introduce themselves. Soon, it was as if they had known him all their lives.
The sun rose, and light spread over the mountains. They stopped to grab some coffee and breakfast sandwiches, then drove north toward Yellowstone Park.
"So where are we heading and what's on the agenda?" Nancy asked. She was sitting in the front passenger seat.
"We will be spending the day in the Yellowstone Park area," Dennis replied. There was this friendly style in Dennis's speech — as if he had to fight saying, "dude," at the end of his sentences. "There is no agenda. The agenda is developed based on what's on your mind. I take you to where you need to be."
That was an awkward answer. The executives exchanged glances.
"What do you mean, Dennis?" Henry asked.
"It means dealing with the biggest thing on your mind. You see, Yellowstone is not just a park, it is a source of inspiration and life lessons. It powers the soul and the spirit. You can find solutions to your greatest business problems by reflecting upon the lessons from the park. Why don't we start with you Henry? What's on your mind? What's your big business problem today?"
"Okay!" Henry paused, clenched his lips, raised his eyebrows and could not help but say, as if he were protesting, "You mean you want me to discuss my business problem here in the truck?"
"Absolutely," Dennis replied with a smile as he looked at him in the rearview mirror. Their eyes met, and Henry felt a sense of comfort.
"Okay." Henry surrendered and proceeded. "I guess it is about the rise of autonomous cars. These cars have suddenly popped up, and the auto sector is finding itself unprepared. We focused so much on the mechanical and electrical side of our cars that we didn't develop those capabilities. We thought they were way in the future, but they seem to be coming out fast."
"That's a great answer, Henry. Thank you. Bob, how about you?" Dennis intended to get the conversation going.
"Hmm, I guess I'd have to say that my biggest concern is the rapid rise of Amazon. Amazon is taking our business left and right. We had to shut down hundreds of stores across the country." Bob's voice was monotone, as if he were sleep-talking. "We tried to emulate their technology and business model, but even though our online presence has all the bells and whistles, we seem to be missing something. Consumers are just not responding to us as they do to Amazon. Amazon keeps developing superior technology and expanding its presence in different areas. Seems like we stand no chance against them."
"We are making progress. Thank you, Bob."
Dennis then pointed to an elk that was standing on the roadside. This early there were only a few cars. Any other time and there would have been a traffic jam with tourists trying to take pictures of the wildlife. Bob, Nancy and Henry pulled out their smart phones and began to photograph the elk.
"How about you, Nancy?" Dennis asked.
Nancy smiled and said "I think my biggest problem is trying to understand how to use all that data we have accumulated for years. My firm has two sides — we are a hospital system and we also own a pharmaceutical company. We have so much data — clinical data, preclinical data, claims data — that we don't even know where to begin. With the upcoming personalized medicine and advances in genomics, we are entering a new phase of health care."
"Awesome! This is all the information I needed to take you where Yellowstone can provide answers to your questions," Dennis said this with a big smile. "You've all described your greatest business challenges. Now, here's a question for you. Your issues seem to have a common denominator. Do you know what it is?"
The CEOs exchanged puzzled glances.
Nancy volunteered: "Is it the information revolution?"
"No," Dennis responded. "Actually, the information revolution is over, and a new revolution has begun. You see, the information transformation began thousands of years ago, when a human drew a figure in a cave. The problem with that figure was that it couldn't be shared unless other humans were in the cave, too.
"Then humans developed writing, which meant that information could be passed from one party to another party. It was still inadequate since it could only be shared with a limited number of parties. Then, came printing, where information could be shared from one to many. And then came the Internet, where information can be shared from many to many. But just as a train can go only as far as its tracks, this is the maturity point of the information revolution. We have now entered the cognitive revolution — a new era has begun.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Beaver Bot of Yellowstone"
Copyright © 2018 Al Naqvi and J. Mark Munoz.
Excerpted by permission of Wimbledon Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
2. The Story: The Great Flood and Its Aftermath;
3. A Seeker’s Search;
4. The Rebellion;
5. Robots and Automation – The Concept;
6. Cognitive Capabilities;
7. The Final Struggle;
8. CEO Reflection;
9. Questions for Review;
10.Questions for Deeper Insights; About the Author.
What People are Saying About This
“As challenges facing our planet become more widespread and more complex, we need to turn to nature for intelligent solutions. The Beaver Bot of Yellowstone asks CEO s to do just that, through a fun parable about adaptation.”
Mark R. Tercek, President and CEO, The Nature Conservancy; Author of Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature
“This is a delightful and very accessible invitation to creative and courageous leadership.”
Neal King, President Emeritus and Former Chair, Board of Directors, International Association of University Presidents
“What an incredibly insightful distilled look concerning our world and the exponential change that attacks business almost invisibly, rendering top-tier performers gasping for breath.”
Bill Manley, Vice President, Quality and Food Safety, Archer Daniels Midland Company