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The Digital Trinity - Learnings from Indian Mythology
                                                                                                                      - Reena Dayal Yadav

 

We all know that Innovation and Learning are closely tied together. This is intuitive and almost every leader will be able to acknowledge the correlation and the fact that these need to go hand in hand. Very few people can however take the two concepts and create organizational levers and interventions that create a machinery that is well oiled and is working towards creating business impact for the Organization. Therefore if one has interest in Innovation, one has to understand the role that learning can play within the Organization and harness the same. Innovation is also extremely impacted by the rate of change in the Industry and therefore learning has this challenging task of keeping up with the rate of change as well.

 

Creativity

 Analogy based learning is nothing new. One could argue that this is linked to the art of Story Telling, since the "Moral of the Story" has historically been extended as analogies to be referenced in life, society or business. The key however is linked to the manner in which this analogy is played out so that meaningful messages can be strengthened in the subconscious of the individuals.

 

A great place to look for analogy is mythology. Around two weeks ago I was speaking at an Academic Summit and talked about the Digital Churn. I took the analogy of the famous " Ocean Churning" or "Samudra Manthan" ( as it is called in hindi) which was done jointly by the Devas ( Gods) and Asuras ( Demons). The churning resulted in several things coming out of the ocean, many were symbolic, however the main purpose of the churn was to get access to the "amrut" or the "Nectar of Immortality". As science, philosophy and maths teaches us- Every positive has a negative associated with it ( and so remains the balance in the universe), therefore, apart from the Amrut, the ocean yielded a poison as well. As the story goes, Shiva, who is one of the three from the Trinity of the supreme Hindu Gods( Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva), drank the poison to save the world. If he had swallowed the poison, he would have died ( yes despite being a god), so he let it remain in his throat. His throat turned blue due to the impact of the poison and hence he is also called Neelkanth. While the entire story is very interesting, the focus of the discussion was around the fact that positive and negative are in juxtaposition always. The same is true for any Change that impacts Industry and Business.

 

The Digital Churn - which includes Social Media, Mobility, Analytics, Big Data, Internet of things, Cloud etc, is creating two kinds of polarized viewpoints. On one hand the really technical and those in the business of technology are exhilarated by the opportunities that Digital represents. The forward looking early adapters of technology around the world are optimistic about the improvement in quality of life that this can bring in. On the other hand, the policy makers, the technical activists and those who are laggards in technology adoption are worried how Security, Privacy considerations may impact life negatively. Artificial Intelligence and Robotics is viewed with scepticism as future possibilities are extracted from the science fiction stories of the past. The Churn as expected is creating many more situations and scenarios than were expected.

The digital churn is changing not only business, but has an impact on society as well. The emergence of social technologies along with the "Internet of Things" is changing and will change even further, how people live their lives. In this context, understanding what can be the "amrut" and the metaphorical negatives( poison) is a good thing. This is where Innovation and Risk Management stand next to each other. Let us take the example of internet and the social mediafacebook, twitter, instagram and linkedIn are changing the way people keep in touch and how they communicate. Distances have got reduced and information is available on the fingertips, for whoever wants to reach out and look for information. Research and Innovation around the world is benefitting tremendously with this kind of connectivity and access to information. Communities of knowledge cross boundaries of organizations, regions etc to fast track learning. The flip side to the same access is that criminals and identity thieves have data more readily available and possibly accessible.

 

The key is possibly not to merely focus on the 'Amrut" or the "poison" but asking the question - What are the possible negatives and how can we effectively manage the Risks associated with the Digital Churn. Issues like security, Privacy etc are Risk Mitigation points from the Societal as well Business angle. Technology, Standards and the Regulatory Environment - all have a role to play in this process.
 
From a Business perspective - key transformations are getting induced through adoption of Digital Technologies. e.g wearable healthcare devices used as monitoring and diagnostic devices, requires an understanding of " Whether these devices have adequate checks built in for preventing unauthorized access and tampering of data, since a person's life may depend on it. " Another way to address this could be that until there is clarity on how these devices can be relied upon for first hand remote information, they be used as secondary devices and for pre-empting certain treatment/ diagnostic scenarios, rather than primary ones. This is the challenge that regulators, HealthCare providers and the device manufacturers are grappling with.
 
So if you are a company which is working on devices in the wearable space, the unknowns associated with the regulatory and standards environment, could be one of the risks that has to be managed well, along with Innovation in this space.

 

Is this a board concern? Yes it is. Since the rate of change and introduction of new technologies and associated new solutions is very high today, Innovation and Risk Management associated with Innovation is a big concern for any Organization.

 

This write-up for reasons of brevity is a simplified view of the concept of Innovation vs. Risk Management. Before I wrap it up, it is important to understand that the Churn also creates a side effect within the Organization- The learning process needs to speed up at a phenomenal rate as well- whether is it technological learning, or the ability to work on multiple technologies for a single solution. Analogy based learning is the way to go. I call this interplay of Innovation, Technology and Learning as the "Digital Trinity of Hope" for Organizations.