Harnessing Technology in Digital Transformation: A Conversation with Futurist Matthew Griffin

Posted by on October 14, 2019

Emerging Technology

Planning for digital transformation is like leading a hiking expedition with an ever-changing map. Just when you set a course, a new technological development or innovative new process changes the terrain. How can you make progress when the route keeps changing?

To make the climb to digital transformation, businesses need to set goals but stay flexible. While it would be ideal to have all the trail markers in place from day one, changes in technology will necessitate ongoing adjustments to your plan. 

To help IT leaders and CIOs map out their journey to digital transformation, we spoke to Matthew Griffin, Founder and CEO of the 311 Institute, about technology trends that could affect your journey. 

Overcoming Technology Obstacles: Insights from Futurist Matthew Griffin

What are the business benefits related to pursuing a digital transformation initiative? 

Matthew: The greatest business benefit is that “digital” helps remove many of the barriers that exist between industries. This means businesses can move between different industries, and move into new ones with less friction than they could before.

What is the biggest obstacle—besides resistance to change—to digital transformation?

Matthew: In my opinion, the greatest challenge that organisations face is, on the one hand, knowing where to start their digital transformation journey, but on the other hand, having a good idea of where they want to eventually end up. 

As digital breaks down the boundaries between previously siloed markets and industries, one of the challenges for stakeholders is being able to think outside the box and about the bigger picture.

How can businesses best use emerging technology to promote collaboration and communication in their organizations?

Matthew: AI is a tool that can be used to great effect to help organisations communicate and collaborate in new ways. One example is new AI personal assistants which help employees be more productive. This is a way that AI can, in many CEO’s words, “Allow employees to do higher cognitive work.” 

Another interesting emerging technology is the ability for companies to create life-like avatars of their senior stakeholders. These avatars can be quizzed and conversed with twenty-four hours a day. A CEO’s job, it seems, is never done!

What’s one tech function that’s under everyone’s radar but shouldn’t be? 

Matthew: One of the biggest technologies flying under the radar right now is the emergence of what I call “Creative Machines.” These AIs are already helping organisations from Under Armour to NASA innovate products tens of thousands of times faster than they could previously. 

Needless to say, these are game-changers. Today they are innovating hardware-related products. Tomorrow it will be software. It’s a huge field with a huge, oversized market impact.

What should business leaders be doing right now to prepare for the next five years of tech innovation?

Matthew: The rate of global change is accelerating. As a result, what companies think is five years out is actually more like three years out. In short, at an absolute minimum, a company should be looking to disrupt their own business. Leaders need to get out into the world to truly understand the power of today and tomorrow’s exponential technologies. Every industry is now up for grabs in ways that many can’t imagine.

What do you see as the biggest cause of resistance to digital transformation in businesses? How can business leaders address it?

Matthew: That’s easy: culture. One way around this is to create two parallel innovation teams. One team innovates the company’s core products—these are the pioneers. 

A second team, at the edge of the organisation, acts as trailblazers. This second team is focused on building the next industry and tearing down the existing one. It’s scary but, as they say, either you do it, or someone else does.


What does digital transformation mean to you? What’s the elevator pitch?

Matthew: Digital transformation only gets you to the starting line. It shouldn’t be the end goal. Once you’re at the starting line, then you have a terrific opportunity to re-frame your business; create, enter, and tackle new markets at speed; and reinvent your company for the next century.


Don’t Let Emerging Technology Block Your Path

New technology will inevitably alter your journey towards digital transformation. But that’s no reason to delay your expedition. Keeping your eye on the destination will help you identify the clearest path forward and reach new heights. For more expert insights to power your climb to the top, check out the IT Leader’s Guide to Digital Transformation.

digital transformation

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