Here’s the reality of business today: We’re past the point of no return when it comes to using technology.
Never again will marketing be all about painted signs and posters, or sales targets be set without consulting AI-generated data. Even innovation—still an essential business tool—is transforming around technology.
At GLOBIS University, we call this the era of Technovate.
Technovate may be scary, but with all the changes come a lot of promise. If your company or managers (or you!) still resist incorporating technology into day-to-day activities, it’s probably because of misconceptions about what technology really is and does. There are lots of technology myths out there! We asked GLOBIS Technovate faculty to share some of the big misconceptions they get from students and how they address them to “reprogram” business leaders of the future.
But before we jump into technology myths, we had one of them explain the secret weapon GLOBIS University equips all MBA students with: Technovate thinking.
What is “Technovate thinking,” and why is it necessary for business leaders?
Business leaders in the Technovate era must understand the strengths and weaknesses, possibilities and limitations of computers so they can give computers appropriate instructions. That understanding is what we call Technovate thinking.
The Technovate era surrounds us with two things that far exceed human processing ability: a large amount of complex data and complicated stakeholders. If you want to beat the competition, you’ll need instantaneous analysis and a variety of strategies—all using computers.
But computers can only perform the actual calculation and analysis. It’s humans who define the issues that need to be solved in business and instruct computers on the direction of problem-solving.
So Technovate thinking isn’t just about accepting technology. You’ll also need to resist (or unlearn) some of the technology myths people have come to believe about what tech is and does.
Here are nine of the biggest technology myths GLOBIS Technovate faculty have had to address, from the role of machines in remote work to who design thinking is actually for.
3 Myths about What Technology Does
“Technology is a threat to work (and jobs) as we know it.”
Some people perceive technological innovation or Technovate as a threat, not an opportunity to make our kokorazashi bigger, faster, better, and cheaper. “Technological innovation” is often confused with engineering and “technology innovation,” which is about coding or inventing new technologies.
“Technological innovation” refers to improving or creating business value by using different existing technologies combined to make our customers happy and our company more competitive. It helps employees to be more creative and efficient. It is a way of thinking and acting throughout the organization. Not only in product design, but also in services, in departments such as marketing, finance, human resources, operations—any area of the company.
“Technology will take care of the challenges of remote work.”
A lot of students think that remote work is all about technology. While choosing the right technology and tools for remote and hybrid work is vital, what’s far more critical are the human factors that create the right team environment. Those let us effectively use communication and collaboration tools.
How do we build trust with colleagues who we never (or rarely) meet in person? How do we overcome the challenges of cultural differences on global teams, such as differing levels of ability in the team’s lingua franca? How do we harness the greater creativity and innovation that comes with the diversity of remote teams? How do we ensure that everyone on hybrid teams is getting equitable treatment?
How does leadership need to change with remote work?
These are some of the human factors that can determine whether a virtual team will thrive, innovate, and create value when combined with the right technology choices. As many companies begin designing a post-COVID-19 workplace, the choices they make around technology and these human factors will affect the workplace for years to come.
“Technovate thinking is the future, so we don’t need critical thinking.”
Technovate thinking and critical thinking are both necessary for the future. You’ll need to use the appropriate thinking method depending on the content and context of the issue you’re facing.
Technovate thinking utilizes large amounts of complex data, computers, and AI to solve problems. You use technology to look at correlations and individualize them without trying to identify cause-and-effect relationships. This can help improve sales, for example, by providing personalized recommendations to individual users on the internet.
On the other hand, critical thinking solves problems by using data that can be handled by the human brain. With critical thinking, you’re repeatedly testing hypotheses. Therefore, critical thinking is best suited to business situations where a cause-and-effect relationship can be explained.
2 Myths about Who Needs Technology
“I don’t need to learn about technology if I’m not an engineer.”
Students often ask, “Why do I need to learn about technology if I’m not an engineer?” My simple answer is, “to be a better leader in the future, no matter what you do, or where you do it.”
One GLOBIS MBA student recently wrote that the Robotics & AI Business Innovation course allowed him to understand how companies use AI and robotics to increase productivity. Before, that student (who worked as a headhunter) knew that companies were moving toward digitalization, but he wasn’t really clear on how that change was impacting business and society at large. Like many people, he had a negative impression of robots, thinking they were coming to take human jobs, not help make our jobs easier.
The student who had this revelation is now a successful GLOBIS MBA graduate who has been admitted to the Paris Business School for a DBA program in fintech.
The revolution has already started, so now is the time to get onboard. Future leaders need to be aware of the transformations brought by AI and robots. It’s the only way to gain the necessary confidence to deal with existing and future tech clients.
“Data is the new oil. We need big data. Let’s hire data scientists!”
You might need big data and data scientists, but only after you understand what data science is. Many business leaders unfortunately do not know what it can do, and thus have the misconception that “data science” is the solution to all of their business issues.
So what exactly can data science actually do?
Data science extracts meaningful insights from typically large sets of data, especially for making predictions. And that’s definitely important for business.
Regardless of industry or job function, there are many ways you can apply the power of prediction through data science. Netflix uses it to predict which movies you would like, and banks use it to predict which clients are likely to default on their loans. Marketers predict which leads might make a purchase, and HR predicts which job applicants will become good employees. Facebook and Google use data science to predict which ads you’d click on—and then they show you those ads.
Just a short time ago, we couldn’t have dreamt of doing any of this. We didn’t have enough data. Even if we had, it would have been too much for humans beings to manually process. The ability to make predictions was made possible by three things: big data, computing power, and machine learning algorithms.
So before you get onboard the data science train (and you should!), think about a prediction that can help improve your business. Defining the issue is the first and most important step to applying data science as a business manager. Only then can you go ahead and hire data scientists for the actual implementation.
4 Myths about Design Thinking
“There is a ‘right way’ to do design thinking.”
There is no bible for design thinking, though there are some similar best practices. Some places (like IDEO) don’t even call it “design thinking,” but still have a design thinking-esque approach to service design.
Diego Rodriguez, a partner at IDEO, says the process begins and ends with the human experience, but what comes in the middle depends on the project, the theme, and the team. That’s why I always tell students to find their own design thinking approach. In response, one of my students recently threw the challenge back at me: “Namba-sensei, what is design thinking for you?”
I had to think about it, but ultimately I decided that, for me, design thinking is a go-to practice, something obvious. That means thinking about the customer or user first and foremost. I listen to them, observe them closely, and search for insights. Then I use the wisdom of others to find solutions. This was a natural approach for me even before I knew the term “design thinking.”
Design thinking isn’t really something you have to study to do—it’s not like learning the frameworks of critical thinking or the calculations of accounting. It’s more about reflecting on how to make people happy and how to provide something that people will support.
“Design Thinking is for design (or something related to art) so it’s only for ‘creative types.’”
Students who are more inclined towards numbers and structure tend not to choose design thinking as a subject of study. Even students who make that courageous move hold onto the belief that they are not creative until little successes highlight their natural creativity.
But the truth is, you don’t need to be an artist to use design thinking—and everyone is more creative than they think.
To discover better human-centric solutions, we do not seek out like-minded people with similar skills. Rather, we thrive when leveraging diversity. The key to success is your ability to adopt a growth mindset and learn to communicate your differences.
I appreciate it when my students “admit” they are not the most creative people. It takes courage to reflect and realize what we are not good at. But I implore them to continue the sentence: “I’m not creative. However, I will ______.”
Making a pledge to move forward using your unique superpowers to contribute to the team is the way to go!
“Design thinking is about creativity, not logic.”
Yes, you do apply creativity to design thinking. But design thinking is a Technovate concept—that means it relies on data and technology.
Really, the key to design thinking is using research to find the pains and gains of customers, analyze the data obtained, and define or give new meaning to those pains and gains. Before you start thinking outside the box, define your problem and think about solutions that can be logically derived from that problem.
As you define the issues and solutions, you’ll need to think logically. Even if you’re working on an emotional issue, logical thinking and language are absolutely necessary to help everyone on your team understand each other.
“Design thinking sessions should focus on positive feedback.”
A student recently made an excellent point that resonated with me: that design thinking shouldn’t just be about “playing nice” and giving praise. We need to make the most of every design thinking session by having the hard conversations that people try to avoid.
Having difficult conversations is essential. The outcome of a difficult conversation (done right) is immeasurable. Everybody reaps the benefit and gains deep insights. The success, however, depends on how the facilitation of the conversation is done and how much time is needed for people to digest conflicting thoughts and ideas.
People oftentimes find their belief system challenged during difficult conversations. Hearing something that contradicts what we have always “known” takes us by surprise, and can even make us very upset. We need time to process and think from a different perspective, and every side needs to understand that—both the person who’s been challenged with a new idea and the challenger.
It takes courage and practice to breach a difficult subject, and that is why psychological safety is paramount in design thinking sessions.