Future Ready Forum 2018: Cultural Transformation in a Digital Age

29 Mar 2018

Artificial intelligence (AI), digitisation and big data are some of the technological trends that are dramatically changing the future job market, how employees learn and how leaders and employees interact for performance that enables business success.

The fourth instalment of the Future Ready Forum, held at Singapore Management University on 22 and 23 March 2018, drew more than 150 participants from more than 10 nationalities , some as far as Africa, across business sectors.

Organised by SMU’s Executive Development (ExD), the Forum addressed key workforce challenges faced today, such as the unwritten rules for increasing workplace performance and retention. It also identified the ways in which to best leverage new technologies, such as AI and data analytics, to achieve corporate objectives.

True to its focus on transformation in a digital age, the Forum started with a segment coined ‘A VR Sojourn into the Education of the Future’. In a demonstration on how VR enables experiential learning with simulations of real-world environments, SMU President Prof Arnoud De Meyer, Dr Katharina Lange, Executive Director, SMU Executive Development and Guest of Honour, Mr Parminder Singh, Chief Commercial and Digital Officer of Mediacorp Pte Ltd were invited onstage to don virtual reality goggles.

They experienced a visual lesson in time and culture, traversing the Greek, Medieval, Chinese, and futuristic cultures, all within SMU’s Mochtar Riady Auditorium. With immersive media having been identified by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) Singapore as one of four key frontier technology focus areas for the development of the digital economy, the segment demonstrated some of the benefits of incorporating Virtual and Augmented Reality technology into educational experiences. This included opportunities for learners to be better engaged and to "feel" the experience, enabling them to become better prepared for when such experiences occur in the real world.

In his opening address, SMU President Prof Arnoud De Meyer warmly welcomed all participants. He highlighted how the evolving employment landscape had been impacted by the accelerating pace of technological change, and the need for constant organisational transformation. Such developments presented both opportunities and challenges for businesses and the workforce.

Prof De Meyer underscored the relevance of the annual Forum in relation to the changing nature of jobs and skills for workplace success. He said, “Artificial intelligence (AI), digitisation and Industry 4.0 are dramatically changing the future of work, how employees learn and how leaders need to engage employees to enable critical business success. We welcome an open discussion of how one could be ‘future-ready’ in a disruptive world - what it means, what the outlook and issues are, and how to prepare for the days ahead.”

He added that SMU aims to continue to curate programmes that effectively enhance the professional capabilities of individuals. Participants will continue to be able to gain insights from SMU and its faculty, in terms of management strategies and research findings in the sessions. They will also benefit from the opportunities for international networking and the ideas gained through open dialogue and peer exchange.

Among the highlights of the two-day event was a keynote address by Guest-of-Honour Mr Parminder Singh, Chief Commercial and Digital Officer of Mediacorp Pte Ltd, on the topic of “Cultural Transformation in a Digital Age”. Engaging the audience with his candid humour, he elaborated on the three important experiences that shaped his current approach to business, calling it an informal “playbook for the future” and a guide of sorts for career success.

Drawing on his experiences working with Apple in the 1980s, Mr Singh advised participants to “choose the problems you are passionate about”. This stemmed from seeing first hand how Apple employees resourcefully developed solutions. Mr Singh’s philosophy was that problems inevitably cropped up along any career path; those who had a real passion for their work were intrinsically motivated to persevere at developing practical and viable solutions.

Secondly, Mr Singh commented that it was key for employees to move away from the narrow definitions of their current roles. According to him, technology and businesses would continue change. As such, leaders would need to be adaptable and be adept at encouraging readiness among staff to extend the boundaries of their roles.

Thirdly, he spoke about values. Mr Singh advocated a solid understanding of the core values of one’s company and to ensure alignment, between an individual’s personal vision to the shared vision of the organisation.

The keynote was followed by an interactive dialogue moderated by Dr Lange. Panel members comprised Mr Singh, Ms Poh Mui Hoon, Board Member of Singapore Pools and Ms Peta Latimer, Partner at KPMG’s Management Consulting practice in the ASEAN region.

A recurring theme highlighted by each panellist was the need to encourage every individual to develop systems thinking and to develop mastery of digital technologies. Highlighting the need to focus on algorithms, community and engagement, Mr Singh declared that “digital is not something you do, but what you are.” With that mindset shift, embracing the future of digital would become easier. He expressed his optimism that people are willing to upskill and relearn ways of working, once their fear of change (towards digital developments) had been addressed.    

As a consultant, Ms Latimer highlighted how the irreversible trends of AI and robotics are disrupting business models. Management teams which are aware of how digital technology can enhance business capabilities, as well as focused on developing reskilling strategies for the workforce, would continue to thrive. She encouraged executives to explore the ways to manage digital transformation systematically and strategically. By developing a culture where employees are “comfortable with being uncomfortable”, it is more likely that individuals would demonstrate more willingness to embrace digital change and feel more empowered to effect changes.

Ms Latimer also encouraged executives to “manage for attrition”, securing the knowledge and preparing for how attrition would impact business operations and increase organisations’ agility to transform in tune with employment trends.

This year’s Future Ready Forum presented seven business theme tracks from which participants could select:

  1. Digitalisation of Business
  2. Design Thinking
  3. Artificial Intelligence
  4. Strategy
  5. Business Innovation
  6. Human Capital
  7. Leadership

The two-day executive programme showcased five SMU faculty and 14 industry experts who delivered high-impact sessions that addressed organisational and executives’ business challenges, with the objectives of empowering executives for the future and leading transformative culture in their organisations. The discussion topics addressed pertinent issues affecting today’s businesses, from innovation and business strategies in a disruptive world to the unwritten rules for increasing workplace performance and retention.

Designed for busy and time-scarce professionals, the annual Forum was structured to offer an interactive dialogue session. This was followed by bite-sized sessions that allowed participants to customise their learning curriculum from a range of trending topics, to best address individual work challenges and skills objectives.

[Featured photo: Dr. Katharina Lange, Executive Director, SMU Executive Development, moderating an interactive session at the Future Ready Forum 2018. From left: Mr Parminder Singh, Chief Commercial and Digital Officer of Mediacorp Pte Ltd, Ms Poh Mui Hoon, Board Member of Singapore Pools and Ms Peta Latimer, Partner at KPMG’s Management Consulting practice in the ASEAN region.]




Last updated on 10 Apr 2018.

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