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25 key takeaways from SingularityU South Africa Summit

Artificial Intelligence

Singularity University (2019), "is a global learning and innovation community using exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges and build a better future for all". It was really an honor to attend this years Singularity University South Africa Summit, the third summit hosted in South Africa which took place on the 16th and 17th of October. The summit was well organized, mind blowing and all the speakers were phenomenal. It covered a range of topics that are relevant to the current and future world context, i.e. fourth industrial revolution challenges and how Singularity University is collaborating and partnering with entrepreneurs and companies to solve these problems and helping the world to be open to change. Of course these topics focused on exponential technology advancements. The interesting one for me was gene editing that saved a young girl dying from leukaemia. A lot was covered during the two days summit, here are my key takeaways:

  1. One idea can radically transform the world.

  2. Companies should build their strategies on exponential advancements using exponential strategic thinking.

  3. Open innovation - enterprises should open their businesses to entrepreneurs. Co-creating ground breaking business models and leveraging outside talent through application program interface (APIs).

  4. Machines can augment what humans do (repetitive tasks) so that humans can focus on creativity and re-humanization.

  5. Your problems/challenges can be your biggest opportunities. You don't always need to invest on something new. You can use existing technologies to create more value. This was echoed by the founder of Innovation: Africa, a non-profit organization that brings Israeli solar, water and agricultural innovations to rural African villages.

  6. Use what's available around you to solve real life problems, i.e. design and use technology to create new things at scale/exponentially.

  7. Leverage existing supply chains and partnerships to create new business models.

  8. Technology has no boundaries, when something doesn't exist we must invent it. However this starts with imagination.

  9. You don't need to be an expert in everything anymore, for example you can use augmented reality to learn new concepts or skills. Eventually this will permeate every aspects of our life.

  10. Use challenge-based learning, i.e. learn to solve real-world challenges using imagination and system thinking.

  11. Technology is being democratized, therefore we should focus on providing great customer and employee experience.

  12. Three skills needed to thrive in the digital economy: (1). Agility mindset, be agile and flexible. Be open to always learning new things (2). Creating - imagination is more important than knowledge (3). Networks - the network effect concept, a phenomenon whereby increased numbers of people or participants improve the value of a good or service.

  13. Skills of the future are not just about digital but human and social aspects too.

  14. Don't try to solve one problem, instead aim to solve all the problems concurrently. This is the only way we can deliver sustainability for younger generation.

  15. Use exponential technologies to unlock innovation. If you can do this right you will get exponential value and experience for your customers.

  16. Diversity, inclusion and education is key for prosperity in Africa. In fact this represents a formula for organizations to increase their bottom line. Prosperity = Diversity + Inclusion + Education.

  17. Digital ethics is becoming increasingly important, for example we need to address human bias in machine coding (AI) and regulating how our data is used by enterprises.

  18. Purpose is becoming a differentiator but will soon be a hygiene factor.

  19. As a leader, you need to have empathy with the people you want to initiate change with. We must move behind the status quo together. We are all human, greater empathy can achieve shared vision and authenticated flow of insights.

  20. Diversity only works when you set shared goals upfront.

  21. Most modern unsolved problems include the invisible. This makes both seeing and solving them "wicked". Any good leader will do what they can to make the invisible visible. To do this as a leader you must be prepared for resistance.

  22. The world is changing exponentially and faster, therefore people are not able to adopt and adapt new technologies quicker.

  23. We need to introduce an adaptability quotient to keep up with exponential advancement.

  24. The world has a distribution issue and not scarcity. We need to move to a mindset of abundance.

  25. Market creating innovation will help companies to tap underserved people.

Based on these key takeaways, the following themes emerged:

  • Imagination

  • Creativity

  • Innovative culture - digital and social skills.

  • Taking informed risks utilizing data and analytics (AI)

  • Diversity and abundance

Adopting and adapting these themes is essential in the digital era. Technology makes the impossible possible. We can use exponential technologies to solve world challenges, to name a few, climate change reducing carbon emissions, digital inclusion through connectivity and devices, provide medical supplies to remote areas (rural villages) using drones. This will provide more value to communities. What captivated my mind the most is that we can use challenge-based learning approach to help us adopt and adapt exponential technologies and to solve real-world challenges.

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