Learn What You Need to Navigate New Technology

During his time at Microsoft, Brian Evergreen interviewed Fortune 500 leaders to discuss artificial intelligence (AI) strategies. They often talked about digital transformation.

“Digital transformation is only the opening,” said Evergreen, founder of The Profitable Good Company, a leadership advisory company that partners with and equips leaders to harness the economic and societal potential of technology in the AI era. “There’s much more to come.”

The rocky path to success in technology innovations

Evergreen notes the move from analog to digital, now followed by digital to autonomous and from autonomous to future tech. Along the way, the ride can be bumpy for companies.

“Investments in technology are very important, and yet 87 percent of data projects fail. And I can say I saw that firsthand.”

An internationally competitive chess player, music major, entrepreneur who ran a company that taught children chess, and tech visionary, Evergreen takes a long lens, interdisciplinary view on the optimal ways to maximize the benefits of technology. His experience includes global head of Autonomous AI Co-Innovation at Microsoft Research, as well as technology leadership roles at Accenture and Amazon Web Services.  He wrote the 2023 book, Autonomous Transformation, Creating a More Human Future in the Era of Artificial Intelligence. 

Key leadership skills support technology transformation wins

Certain underlying leadership skills are important to successfully navigating through technology transformations, he says, and EMBA Programs can help by nurturing the following skills in their students.

FUTURE SOLVER: Leaders who are future solvers start with a vision in mind for the future, then work backward, asking what needs to happen to make that vision a reality. For example, the vision of ending child labor might require creating new supply chains.

ENVISIONING:  Leaders need to take the time to look ahead. “One biggest distinction I’ve seen between leaders who do great things and leaders who struggle is the ability to be vulnerable and to envision some form of the future. It’s not something you work into the actual workday.”

DISCERNMENT: Discernment helps leaders counter the noise in the marketplace. “In this era of technology, I would say discernment is one of the most important skills one can possibly have.” Discernment involves understanding who you can trust and what proposals offer the most value.

SYSTEMIC STRATEGY ANALYSIS: Organizations struggle with the systemic design skills that bring people together. It’s not just a matter of individual performance: “It’s really how well they are working together across the entire organization.” While it may not be their problem, they are willing to work with others to fix it anyway. “If every team across the organization thinks that way, the organization will flourish.”

Leaders also use analysis to take the system apart, understand it separately, then put it back together and synthesize to consider the big picture and the ways the organization meets a societal need.

REASON-DRIVEN DECISION MAKING: Organizations and people need to move from data driven to reason driven, says Evergreen. Steps in that direction include asking questions, gathering data, drawing conclusions about a hypothesis, and then assessing its reasonableness. 

MULTIPLYING EXPERTISE: Many experts live in organizations. They traditionally offer leaders their opinions, then leaders decide. By viewing their role as facilitators who help experts work through the issue at hand as a group, though, leaders will gain more. 

STORYTELLING: Storytelling helps leaders share their vision and helps all better imagine the future. “It typically isn’t seen like a core skill for every leader, but it really is a defining characteristic of great leaders.”

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