It is Ireland’s premier thought-leadership event for senior leaders. IMI’s National Management Conference, in association with Cork University Business School, takes place on Thursday, September 23rd, and this year focuses on the urgent need for organisations to develop strategic resilience in the face of near constant change.
The theme of the conference, delivered virtually to the comfort of your home or office, is Predict, Prepare, Propel.
It will show how to predict the future actions and behaviours that will define your leadership. It will explain how leaders can best prepare for the future by capitalising on digital transformation, and it will demonstrate how an ability to harness cognitive diversity can propel your organisation forward.
As befits Ireland's most prestigious leadership event, the conference has attracted some of the most sought-after business minds in the world.
Predict – Whitney Johnson
Whitney Johnson is CEO of human capital consultancy WLJ Advisors and is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading business thinkers.
She specialises in helping high growth organisations to develop high growth individuals. Great companies, and resilient cultures, start with the individual, she says.
An innovation and disruption theorist by profession, she is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, and MIT’s Sloan Management Review, as well as being the bestselling author of books such as Build an A-Team and Disrupt Yourself.
Johnson also works with high growth venture-backed start-ups and Fortune 100 companies across a variety of sectors.
“Over the next 12 months we are going to continue to see tremendous growth as a society. The challenge and trauma induced by the pandemic will have been transformational for many individuals. This wide-sweeping personal growth will lead to professional growth and, in turn, growth within organisations,” says Johnson.
How we deal with disruption defines us, she suggests.
“It is a human longing to grow but we like to grow without changing. When our lives are upended, we are given the opportunity to get off the proverbial chair. We start to move, and movement builds momentum. We can leverage that movement to be different from who we were,” she explains.
Playing to your strengths is how you will deal with the inevitable disruption of today
“As we change, we will invariably make mistakes - we are at the launch point of a new S Curve of Learning, where we are awkward and unsure. But when we know that it’s supposed to be that way, and we normalise the experience and recognise that we aren’t failing - which can induce shame - we are learning.”
Johnson believes that one of the exciting elements of disruption is that it can reveal to us our strengths. “Often we aren’t aware of what we do best. It is so instinctive and natural to us, our strength is invisible. Even if it is visible, it may not feel valuable. We think, ‘this is so easy, how could it possibly be valuable?’” she explains.
“But when we are in a tough spot, we default to what we do best. It’s an opportunity to identify our strengths. We then decide if we will own and value them. Playing to your strengths is how you will deal with the inevitable disruption of today - and tomorrow.”
Prepare – Karim Lakhani
Karim Lakhani is professor of Business Administration and a fellow at Harvard Business School, specialising in technology management, innovation, digital transformation and artificial intelligence (AI).
He has researched in partnership with organisations such as NASA, Harvard Medical School and the Linux Foundation, as well as many private organisations.
Lakhani is also co-author of Competing in the Age of AI, named Best Business Book for Strategy last year.
While researching and conducting case studies with major firms including Microsoft, Amazon, Ant Financial, Peloton and Airbnb, Lakhani and his team saw how AI-centric companies were able to break from the constraints of traditional business models to massively increase scope, straddle industry boundaries, and drive more accurate, complex and sophisticated predictions.
What we've seen in the top firms in the world is that AI, analytics and networks are the core of the firm
During the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, they studied the fast-track development of Moderna’s vaccine. With the help of an AI-first model, the company was able to produce a vaccine candidate in only 41 days—a record 90 per cent reduction compared to the time it took to develop vaccines for Sars and Mers.
“What we’ve seen in the top firms in the world is that AI, analytics and networks are the core of the firm, and what they do in terms of their business model and operating model comes from this core,” says Lakhani, who advises organisations on how to transition to an AI-first model.
“Some organisations think machine learning is about superhuman powers that are the exclusive domain of companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft,” says Lakhani. “The fact is, the AI-first business model is easily accessible to any company. Once they rethink their processes and organise differently, they will see that superpower is available to them too.”
Propel – Matthew Syed
High performance mindset specialist Matthew Syed is bestselling author of a number of books, most recently Rebel Ideas: Harnessing Collective Intelligence to Drive Growth.
He also works with leading organisations to build a mindset of continuous improvement.
He will focus on ways to unlock the power of 'cognitive diversity', that is, the ability to think differently about the world around us, explaining how it is a critical faculty for leaders in a fast-changing world.
He believes that only by harnessing our unique perspectives and pooling our collective intelligence can we tackle the greatest challenges, including business ones.
“Almost all the most important work today is performed in teams. Problems are too complex for any one person alone. This is why diversity is such a critical ingredient of cutting-edge decision making,” he explains.
“When the minds within a team bring different perspectives, it permits them to identify blind spots, cross-pollinate ideas, and establish insights impossible to more monolithic groups, however talented.”
Diversity is such a critical ingredient of cutting-edge decision making
By understanding the intimate connection between mindset and high performance, he believes organisations can unlock untapped potential in individuals and teams, driving innovation and agility to secure a future-proofed environment.
Read more about the IMI National Management Conference, taking place on Thursday, September 23rd from 9.30am to 12.40pm - imi.ie. This event is exclusive to IMI Corporate Members.