Exponential Experience | a week back at (Singularity) University

Sabine Hoffmann, CEO of ambuzzador, went to San Francisco to join Singularity University for a very special week. Here's what she brought back!

Last year, exploring the Silicon Valley for the first time with Google, I got to know the guys from Singularity University and their mission:

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After reading the book abundance by Peter H. Diamandis, I decided clearly for attending one week at Singularity Exec Program, in order to feel the spirit of changing the world. Now. With the power of exponential technologies, spirit and fellows from all over the world (70 attendees from 26 countries).

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Actually the dilemma with the digital revolution starts in our brain which is made for thinking linear. What means that also experts would always predict linear, as they did for computers or the growth of the mobile phone market.

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As soon as we feel that things are changing (in these times), the probability is high, that you find your business model within a dramatic (exponential) change process. Thanks to exponential technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, 3D Printing, Nano Technology... our world is changing in an exponential way – we call this phenomenon going on in multiple industries, disruption. The breakdown of established business models, all of a sudden, caused by the power of networks (technological and social) shifting the price performance curve. The most wellknown examples are Uber, who tripled the taxi market around the bay area and airbnb who will soon be the largest “hotel chain”, with one tenth of employees compared to the existing largest chain Hyatt.

When we look back historically, we find disruption all the way down from Columbus and the spice market, which ended up in our refrigerator that might be replaced by thrones in the future. In these days we find a disruptive environment within the automotive market, where car builders build computers in their cars and computer builders such as Tesla build wheels on the computers. How they succeed? Not by building better cars, but by designing new experience, such as the insane mode – the same as happened to the mobile phone industry, Apple disrupting the market and the market leader Nokia with the iPhone. Looking back we are usually very good at pointing out why that happened. Anticipative thinking is the challenge in forecasting, what our brain obviously is not able to do in an exponential manner, as mentioned before. As business students and leaders we are trained to manage predictable environments (quote of Salim Ismail).

My favourite quote within the week comes from Paul Saffo in his talk on forecasting:

“Sacred cows make the best burgers”.

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Steve Jobs showed the world how to enable teams despite being a big organisation, to innovate and disrupt the core business of your company. With the iPhone the main revenue driver iPod, the sacred cow was disrupted by the own organisation, building the base for the future success of Apple. John Hagel (Deloitte) continued on this topic by outlining the framework for innovation within big organisations: First of all by reframing innovation to an institutional level, which means scalable learning replacing scalable efficiency. China and India are better at that than the US and the Western countries. An often quoted best practice is the Chinese company: Li & Fung http://www.lifung.com/, coordinating local ecosystems. Partners work together with Li & Fung because they learn faster in that network!

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Scalable learning means to nurture and amplify the passion of each person in your company. According to statistics 88% are not motivated, which means a great potential but the limitation of innovation within big organisations as well.

The second secret (as it was for Steve Jobs) is to scale the egde: isolate small teams, provide them with authority and autonomy and make them disrupt your own business. One technique to disrupt are Moonshots, the attitude to attack a problem as if it were solvable. Always keeping in mind, that the scalable edge comes out of testing and prototyping. Which we experienced at TechShop in San Jose by building and racing our own robots:

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To cut a long story short, there are good and bad news for our future. Technology will deliver abundance to the grand challenges of humanity, as these insights show:

70% of vegetables sold in Singapore grow in vertical farming, 1 second of sunlight would fulfill humanity´s energy needs for one day, people suffering from Parkinson disease do no longer have to tremble, artificial intelligence is close to beat human brains and will do a good job in supporting us in daily life. The impact on jobs and education is predictable but still not on the agenda of governments.

Of course we also have to be aware of the dark side of technology – being used by criminals as well and leaving the field of ethics wide open. We never had the discourse about the privacy of data but we are handling it as if. So it´s all about the balance that has to be found, as we have no choice than to proceed, as Ray Kurzweil put it in a closing talk.

What I took home from that week? Tons of content and cases studies, that I will be blogging on step by step, the confidence that I am not alone believing in the fundamental digital revolution, a network of minds and hearts, all working for the same goal and the promise to myself to continue on building bridges from today to the near future, in order to create a world of humanity and abundance!

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Me talking to Ray Kurzweil about Vienna 🙂