First things first: Thank you *so* much for coming!
Global Female Leaders 2017 was an amazing experience, and while our company may manage the organisational tasks, it is you who make this a special event. We are back in our Eschborn office now, exhausted, but also very happy. And we wanted to take this opportunity to look back on three fantastic days.
Did you expect this much emotion at an economic forum?
Events like these always harbour an upbeat atmosphere of inspiration, progress and help us to look into the future. It is rare, however, that they give us insights in genuinely touching projects, stories, or even business models. But Global Female Leaders 2017 did exactly that. There are so many great examples that come to mind when illustrating this point, that it is almost unfair to choose among them. Of course, in case you saw it, you will remember Samantha Payne’s Spotlight Session and the joy her start-up brings to children having to grow up missing a limb. Seeing the videos of the children using her bionic hands with so much happiness is a treasured memory that will stay with us for a long time. Another powerful event was Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s speech at the China Club. It is always sad to see how much injustice and cruelty still plagues our world, and that makes her work oh so important. And, of course, a bit more on the bright side were the Icebreaker Think Tanks on Sunday, be it Jocelyn B. Smith’s “Sing” Tank or Nicole Rolet’s inspiring session on changing your life.
AI and robotics in the spotlight
Among the many groundbreaking topics the most interesting (and potentially game-changing) one was probably the issue of artificial intelligence, robotics and automation in general. It is the development that influences everything that is happening today in society, be it work, important fields like healthcare, and even elections. Because of that it was just appropriate that almost every discussion was informed by this issue, every subject we tackled somehow influenced by it.
And let’s face it, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered:
- How will we deal with the shift in the labour markets? Automation will lead to a need for people to develop skills that enable them to do work that requires creativity, social skills and expertise in working with smart robots. Meanwhile, repetitive manual tasks will mostly be done by machines and the workforce might shrink. How will we organise work in our companies in the future? And how will we organise it (as well as not working) as a society?
- What could and should machines do? We talked a lot about how artificial intelligence can make smarter decisions in treating patients, for example when analysing x-ray images or prescribing the right medicine. But can AI lead and make decisions for us? When it comes to using data in order to find the best way to move forward it probably can! However, what are the ethical implications of this?
- Where shouldn’t we use artificial intelligence? Is it wise to be able to use it in electoral campaigns in order to influence people more effectively? The campaigns of Trump and President Obama made the most proficient use of these possibilities in their respective elections, and they account for the last three wins in one of the most important democracies in the world. But looking at filter bubbles, fake news and social media algorithms this might just not be the best way to keep a population informed during an election.
Of course, AI and robotics provide us with huge potential to do a lot of things better, i.e. organising and automating our cities, supply chains, or informing complex tasks in fields like medicine. But they will cause a big disruption in virtually any field we know. And this is why they will surely stay as a focal point of our debate until Global Female Leaders 2018.
New challenges for leaders in the coming years
One thing is certain: the role of leaders will change drastically during the upcoming years. And it has to. It should have changed already to be honest. In the digitised world organisations have to stay fast, agile and innovative. The workforce will be more diverse, consisting of employees who value working autonomously, who want to enjoy a healthy work-life balance, and who are used to having opinions and having them respected. This is because today, even in developing countries, many people will grow up with their own smartphone as well as the means to use the internet everywhere they go. And this is already disrupting most international companies we know.
Gone are the days when leaders could steer “their” companies top-down in any direction they wanted to. The markets, technologies and many innovations that impact them almost daily make for a complex business environment. And leaders that want to control everything themselves, make every decision themselves only serve as bottlenecks that slow down their companies. Concerning this topic Linda Sharkey who authored “The Future-proof Workplace” made some great points during her Insight Presentation on Tuesday. Linda inspired lots of excitement and we are eager to see how organisations will change over the coming years.
Gala Dinners, Cocktail Receptions and Think Tanks
Like every year, the true highlights of the event were the many great networking opportunities. The China Club and the Ritz-Carlton in Berlin are great places to wine and dine and to engage in stimulating discussion. Also we tried to organise such a variety of interesting Think Tanks that we hope everyone of you could take a deep dive in highly relevant topics. All in all, we really enjoyed this years event, the relaxed atmosphere during the reception on Sunday and Monday’s gala dinner, as well as the many interesting conversations we had with you.
We hope all of you had a safe trip home, and we are really looking forward to 2018!