Let's build the future together!

Let's build the future together!
December 23, 2017
World-renowned expert in the fields of innovative technologies and artificial intelligence, Global Professor of Management, Strategy, Innovation & Economics at Hult International Business School Olaf Groth in the interview to “BB” explained why we shouldn't fear the future in a world of change.
- Mr. Groth, what are the prospects of the global education? Which factors one should pay attention to in order to choose the most promising education for building up exciting career?
- There’s only one thing certain and that is the fact that our world will exhibit more not less uncertainty. Much of this will be driven by technologies, like the ones mentioned under nano-qualifications above, climate change, migration, terrorism and cybersecurity or lack thereof. Geopolitical conflict will also stay with us and potentially escalate regionally.  

While this may sound like an increasingly unpleasant scenario, I do not see it that way. All of this volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) creates tremendous opportunity for humankind everywhere to shape the future and create more opportunity. Rather than frame uncertainty as risk only and scare people into freezing mentally, we should seek to convert it into attractive horizons that constitute a better world and a more prosperous human experience. For instance, automation threatens parts of many types of jobs. We don’t know exactly which or how many or when. But it’s safe to say that the impact will be felt substantially. Yet, rather than giving in to that possible impact, let’s get ahead of it and decide what future we want. What kinds of new jobs can we design? Are there new models of working, learning and earning? Can we increase the sense of passion, purpose and meaning people feel as they work, learn and earn? Rather than protecting old models that are under attack, let’s design new ones that lead to better lives.
The biggest challenge for young talent is the uncertainty and non-linearity of personal development paths and careers. Those uncertainties range from the impact of AI, blockchain and automation on working, learning and earning; others include global geo-economic and geo-political crises and the trends on fragmentation versus integration; yet others include climate change and migration patterns. Individuals, much like organizations have to reflect on the emerging picture often and then navigate flexibly. That means changing and upgrading oneself continuously in smaller “bite-size” chunks.  

Two sets of creative tensions are defining professional and personal development: the tensions between humans with diverse identities and the tensions between machines and humans. Success on both fronts can unleash success. 

To get there, you should prepare yourself near-term with foundational competencies that will last you a lifetime and with longer-term modular “up-skilling” that will help you navigate and pivot quickly as you hit challenges or roadblocks in life. The foundational competencies are hard (functional, technical) and soft (interpersonal) ones and many of them require in-person huddling and presence in the same locations with other people. On the “harder” side, those include strategic-, scientific-, design-, systems-, futures- and critical thinking, and problem-solving, as well as basic financial and data science literacy. On the “softer side” they include storytelling, team dynamics, cross-cultural management, negotiation and coaching, an execution mindset and the navigation of political organizations and processes.  

Then augment that foundation over time with smaller skill qualifications as you need to pivot in your career, e.g. nano-qualifications like know-how in certain technology spaces like AI or autonomous vehicles, genetic engineering, synthetic biology or 3D printing. Other nano-qualifications could include deep-dives into human psychology, group processes, or specific geographic or cultural identity issues. Both of these fascettes will help you position robustly for a future that will require you to exercise left and right brains together, i.e. bring both a healthy dose of creativity and analysis to your work as you design and execute projects for, with and through others and the machines.  
- While your recent speech on TED conference, you referred to the Vladimir Putin words "The one who becomes the leader in the sphere of the artificial intellect will be the ruler of the world". In your opinion, does Russia have the potential to become the world’s new science and innovative technologies powerhouse in the nearest future? And how would you rate the chances of the Russian students in not only getting education in the West, but also in building a meaningful career there?  
- As an innovation scholar-practitioner and geo-economic strategist I believe that Russia has tremendous S&T capital still and that it should use that capital to become a geo-economic powerhouse, pivoting from old notions of military geo-politics to new notions of technology and innovation driven growth, trade and investment. There is no better way for Russia to have a formative voice in global affairs than to be known for creating livelihoods and prosperity in Russia and beyond.  

Most Russian students have impressed me as dedicated, qualified, committed and holding strong opinions.  Those are great qualities they can bring to debates in a classroom, considering alternative framings of problems and solutions in team projects, or enriching the skill-mix in corporations when taking internships. Once Russian students get used to cultural differences, I see many of them doing well and I am not aware of any formal restrictions. That doesn’t really surprise me: as always, we need to distinguish between people and their government no matter what the country, including America.  

In education we should focus on people and not inter-governmental tensions. As capacity builders it is our mission to bring out and help develop human potential in people. Where it works, that kind of capital of the mind is a gift that lasts for a lifetime and neither students nor teachers forget it. It’s the way toward peace and joint prosperity.  I think we should all be focused on using that capital to expand the pie for all rather than fight over how to carve it up.
- In your opinion, what is the competitive advantage of Hult International Business School in the global education market? And what makes it unique?

- For starters, we have a large global network of campuses and an “insanely diverse” mix of students:  some 3,500 students from 130+ nationalities across 6 locations during the year. They learn hard and soft skills with and from each other. Often, that creates significant sparks and conflicts. We help them manage through that in what I consider to be a huge learning lab. It’s a safe environment where failure doesn’t punish you, but leaves you with insights, sometimes not happy or positive, but highly valuable nonetheless.  

Many of us on the teaching side are “scholar-practitioners,” i.e. executives, consultants or entrepreneurs who have decades of experience in the “real” world and who are also good at teaching, coaching and mentoring. We research and publish, but we do so with a strong focus on what’s relevant for decision makers in organizations, not other academics in an ivory tower. There’s nothing wrong with the latter – we need people who create new knowledge for the sake of creating new knowledge. But that’s not who we are as a business school. We want to have tangible near-term impact that helps make this world more prosperous and better.

We have also been experimenting with different types of competitions, simulations, digital games and virtual experiences. We need to and will do more of it, toward hybrid physical-virtual experiences. AI, blockchain, AR/VR all hold great promise as we explore new educational horizons. 20 years from now, the prevailing model of 1, 2, or 4 year programs today will have given way to more flexible, modular, digitally intelligent and augmented education models. What better testbed for these new models than the biggest and youngest business school in the world?  Disruption has been in our history, so I hope we’ll go there.