Digital Technology
Feb 22, 2019

My takeaways from the 2019 World Economic Forum:

why I think we are onto something BIG in our digital journey

After another exciting, snowy trip to the World Economic Forum (WEF), I am eager to share my insights from the mountains of Davos. The theme of this year's meeting was “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution." Throughout the week, I repeatedly heard about the importance of culture, curiosity, and courage in driving digital transformation in individuals, teams, enterprises, and society – all of which are values that are vital to us at Genpact.

WEF is always a week of continuous learning. Here are the takeaways that I walked away with this year.

1. To build an augmented future, we need to rebuild trust

There is no denying that the tone of WEF 2019 was more somber than previous annual gatherings. We are currently in a pivotal moment in human evolution, and society's leaders face complex challenges that require even more complex solutions. Capitalism and globalization are being questioned deeply, global politics keep even the most powerful countries on their toes, and trust is wavering as various industries struggle with how to keep privacy and personal data safe.

Depending on your perspective on the future, AI is either a beacon of hope or potential cause for worry. To rebuild trust between the public, institutions, and technology, businesses must be responsive to society's needs and concerns. For example, in recognizing a broad distrust around how personal data is handled, Shinzo Abe, prime minister of Japan, made a pledge on data governance that he wants G20 leaders to take. By reassuring the public that they are taking steps to prioritize data security and protect consumer privacy, businesses can regain trust.

Similarly, Genpact's new research on AI shows that most people expect businesses to combat AI bias. By preventing discrimination in AI, businesses can earn greater trust.

2. Our responsibility in a digital future

As businesses across industries adopt AI in greater numbers, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will continue to progress in both daily life and the workplace. On and off the WEF stages, discussions at Davos explored “digital ecosystems" – the growing need for companies to build agile operating structures that can weather economic volatility. The bottom line: successful companies drive digital transformation and operate within connected ecosystems.

During my second day at WEF, I moderated a panel called "Theory of the Firm." The panelists – Michał Krupiński of Bank Pekao in Poland, Hanzade Doğan Boyner of Hepsiburada in Turkey, Julian Birkinshaw of the London Business School, and Andrew Thompson of US firm Proteus Digital Health – shared their insights in an energizing conversation on how businesses continue to shift in the age of digital. I was encouraged by this discourse, as the takeaways align with Genpact's core ideals. The AI narrative is changing as AI success stories triumph over technophobia.

On Wednesday evening, Genpact co-hosted a cocktail reception with Techonomy that went into greater detail on this topic. I joined fellow panelists Richard Socher of Salesforce, David Kenny of Nielsen, and our moderator, David Kirkpatrick, in a discussion about our responsibilities as business leaders to continue changing the AI narrative, so that workplaces and consumers become more comfortable with the future of technology.

Our key takeaways: business leaders must combat AI bias, generate a culture of continuous learning, and instill stronger re-skilling initiatives. Only then will our workforces be prepared for the future and society fully reap the benefits of AI.

3. Re-skilling is the bedrock for the future of work

By using technology to foster a culture of curiosity, it empowers people rather than generates fear. Our research tells us that workers want to learn new skills to take advantage of AI, but widespread training has yet to take place. Re-skilling was top of mind for many of my peers at WEF, as the future of work evolves with new experiential methods of education.

We need inclusive learning in a world where educational disparities are increasing. My colleague Ahmed Mazhari participated in a panel discussion called "Future-Proof Workforce," alongside Matt Turner of Business Insider, Shamina Singh from Mastercard's Center for Inclusive Growth, and Daphne Kis of WorldQuant University. They discussed how curiosity will play a key role in re-skilling the workforce and that business leaders are responsible for fostering this desire to learn.

At Genpact, we're underscoring this message with our Genome initiative. We're using AI to re-skill 5,000 of our mid-level managers, a project that will eventually reach all 87,000 of our employees around the world. We're ahead of the curve in instilling a culture of curiosity, and other leaders who attended WEF will undoubtedly be doing the same in 2019 and beyond.

4. We must stand strong on our beliefs and values

In times of global uncertainty, it's essential never to lose sight of your North Star. The companies at WEF have a seat at the table because they have firm beliefs and a clear view of where the world is headed. Even as a modestly sized company, Genpact has a strong voice. Next year, we'll be even more provocative and courageous. It's my hope that all the leaders at WEF 2019 will have inclusion and diversity of thought in their mantras. In moments of transition, our values hold incredible power.

Beyond WEF 2019

Reflecting on my unique experience at this year's World Economic Forum, I am more certain than ever that Genpact is headed in the right direction. My time in Davos was an incredible learning exercise, filled with familiar faces and new relationships. In exchanging questions and ideas with fellow business leaders, I was reminded of the importance of engaging in global conversations across industries.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution comes at a time of global unrest, and this uncertainty was tangible at Davos. In my discussions with peers, we contemplated what businesses can do to better address society's needs and set up companies for success for decades to come. These conversations revealed the shared goals and good intentions leaders can all carry forward beyond Davos. Despite today's global variables, I am confident that we can continue to work together to empower a future-proof workforce.

About the author

NV "Tiger" Tyagarajan

NV "Tiger" Tyagarajan

CEO

Based in New York, Tiger Tyagarajan is credited as one of the industry leaders who pioneered a new global business model and transformed a division of GE (formerly GE Capital International Services) into Genpact, a $2.74 billion global professional services firm focused on delivering digital transformation for its clients.