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    Be the change, drive the change: Preparing for the new age of innovation in technology


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    By Prabhakar Munuswamy, Senior Vice President, Application Development, Access Healthcare

    Artificial intelligence is transforming the world in many ways – yes, right now, as we speak, and not “in the near future.” Many think AI is the villain because it somewhat forcibly drives us toward change. Several use cases involve the elimination/reduction of human effort, which naturally means some “jobs” will be redefined in the short term. But any serious technologist who thinks AI will take away their job has a terribly myopic view of the world.

    Is AI technology a threat?
    Passively waiting for the change to happen and failing to use the tremendous opportunity right in front of us could slow down career development. At the same time, it makes sense at this point to evaluate how your work – or your vision – fits into the changing world.

    Ask yourself:

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    1. Is this project solving a problem relevant to our business and our customers?
    2. Is it making a meaningful difference worth focusing on and capable of differentiating itself from other solutions for the same problem?

    My favorite example of advocating for technology enhancement in everyday life is that of automobiles. As cars became popular, it is technically accurate to conclude that the demand for horses, bullock carts, cycle rickshaws, and other mechanical/muscle-driven modes of transport went down, and people depending on those for their livelihood would face challenges. But it wasn’t the end of the world – look at the new ecosystem which has opened up since then.

    We have car makers, engine makers, platform makers, rubber suppliers, metal suppliers, tyre factories, spare parts makers, after-market parts suppliers, mechanics, garages, drivers, cab services, and so many new elements added to the massive new economy! And that is not to mention the new demand for Silicon chips to power today’s autonomous and assistive mobility devices. Those who were able to evolve were able to thrive and build newer and stronger careers, providing solutions to more significant problems.

    Focus your energies on the “purpose” (what you aim to achieve) rather than blindly sticking to a “process” (what you are doing to reach your current purpose). Technologists must sustain their value by adapting to the new purpose before them rather than getting shackled by an obsolete process. That attitude should reflect not just in the technologist’s mindset but also in their product design, development philosophy, and approach to innovation.

    Evolving to catch up with reality
    Once upon a time, engineers grappled with Moore’s law, which predicted that computer chips would grow in density (and hence processing capability) at exponential rates, doubling every two years. This essentially implied that a linear improvement in capabilities would make engineers and companies obsolete in a concise time. They had to move faster than that to stay relevant. The dawn of AI has made the demand even tougher. To take full advantage of the increasing capabilities of artificial intelligence, it is estimated that computing power should grow by as much as seven times what Moore’s Law predicted. IT professionals, too, should strive to upgrade themselves at a matching speed to remain relevant amidst this rapid evolution.

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    Another massive yet largely unaccounted change we are experiencing now is the growth in human expectations with respect to technology. Once upon a time, an incandescent light bulb stunned the world, and no one would even believe that it would be rendered obsolete by CFL and LED bulbs. Mobile phones, seen as an extravagant luxury once, are now being blamed for not being fast enough or powerful enough to manage our needs. Any new technology introduced and brought to the mainstream soon will fail to surprise or stun humanity because we already believe anything is possible.

    Understanding the landscape
    Many AI projects begin with a mindset of experimentation, due to which companies tend to keep their projects confidential until they are assured of significant value generation. Once results show, the transition into a mature model appears to happen quickly, which is critical to cementing the fast-mover advantage. The focus of companies, therefore, has to be on the customer. What additional value does the customer need from you? Can AI help infuse more efficiency, capacity, or productivity into your systems? Get your technologists to work on basic value creation as their primary problem; the “how” will be surprising.

    Here are five priorities that technology leaders must consider to lend strength to their team of innovators in the context of the rapid evolution of their craft.

    1. Technologists must strive to stay informed about what’s happening in the world, especially the advancements in artificial intelligence. Encourage breadth of thinking through the exchange of ideas and peer-led learning sessions among technologists

    2. Promote continuous upgrade of skills through internal and external training programs, workshops, and certifications, and link them to career growth

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    3. Encourage a culture of experimentation and invest in providing opportunities (new platforms, new systems, etc.) for the innovation team to try and execute their ideas in a secure environment.

    4. Provide platforms to showcase the innovations created by your technologists using the opportunities you gave.

    5. Facilitate interactions with various departments within the organization to gain visibility on domain-specific practices and problems. The value may be generated in unexpected areas through the application of technology

    6. Build momentum by creating solutions for internal problems, aiming to cut costs, save time and optimize efforts for the organization

    We are in the age of drastically re-imagining and re-designing new use cases. If an interesting new technology becomes available, you can be sure that creative minds are at work figuring out amazing applications to add value to humanity and derive commercial advantages from it. The race is on, and every stakeholder needs to know their place.

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