Two women are in the entrance hall. The room is composed of tables adorned with a round aquarium full of water.
It’s surrounded by natural white flowers that contrast with the black lining that covers the furniture. Jazz and blues songs fill the room, featuring a velvety female voice.
Those who are present are eager to hear what the leaders who will take the stage have to say about the technology that’ll change everything.
The scene looks like part of a fictional world, but it’s the setting of Frontiers #1, an event created by MIT Sloan Management Review Brazil.
The event took place in the Plural room at Tomie Ohtake Institute, in São Paulo. Designed in 2001, the building was created to host national and international fine arts, architecture, and design exhibitions.
The idea behind the event was to promote an 8-hour knowledge exchange. The theme of Frontiers, the first in its history, was artificial intelligence.
A group of executives and researchers were carefully selected and invited to speak and participate in round tables.
The audience, who sat in classic wooden chairs with cream-colored padding, was also very select. Managers, directors, and decision-makers were all keen to understand more about AI and its applications.
The topic is also part of the first printed issue of MIT Sloan Management Review Brazil. Its articles bring discussions from experts in the AI field, and the event was conceived as an extension of such content.
Structured as a live magazine by Carlos Júlio, who played the role of Master of Ceremonies, Frontiers #1 brought several high-level discussions to the audience.
Do androids dream? The beginning of Frontiers #1
The morning presentations included several quotes from great contemporary and modern thinkers and entrepreneurs.
From Philip K. Dick to Henry Ford, the speakers were aware of how the audience saw Artificial Intelligence even before their speeches.
Responses from a survey sent to attendees before the event came with valuable insights.
The answers to the questions provided information on how those companies handle technological innovations.
81% of the companies are already digitally transforming their businesses in the next 5 and 10 years.
77% believe that there is an atmosphere of trust in their company that makes it possible to take risks, innovate, and have people saying what they really think.
Other information is about the percentage of companies already working with data, and how many of them have Artificial Intelligence initiatives. The complete results are below:
- currently develop actions to keep competitive in 5 and 10 years — 81%;
- feel a climate of confidence in their company that makes it possible to take risks, innovate, and let people say what they really think — 77%;
- work enough with data and analytics to take advantage of all data-driven technologies, such as those related to artificial intelligence — 74%;
- are already implementing initiatives related to artificial intelligence — 64%;
- already took artificial intelligence to the board of directors or equivalent body — 57%;
- have clear key performance indicators (KPIs) — 72%;
- leadership uses KPIs to change their management style — 59%;
- invest in better machine learning applications to develop better KPIs — 74%.
The high percentages reflect well the selection of people who participated in the event. They represent large companies that want to be at the forefront and move to meet, process, and execute new technologies within their teams.
The strategic vision is clear both in the numbers and in the eyes of the men and women who composed the room.
Even with the event’s avant-garde nature, the speakers made a point of remembering important aspects that go unnoticed in this search for innovation.
Michael Schrage draws attention to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
The first speech of the day was given by Michael Schrage, a researcher at MIT, for more than 30 years. The leader in innovation thought has provided Embraer consulting services and has also been a security consultant for the U.S. government.
In his presentation, entitled “The Next I.T: Innovation Transformation”, he asked the audience to pay more attention to their companies’ KPIs.
In addition to the importance of knowing what is to be measured, processes need to become a virtuous cycle. Measuring is only the first step of any Key Performance Indicator.
In the KPI feedback, you start with measuring and then move on to innovation, propagation, and strategy.
The speaker’s sense of humor softens the hard message: there’s no point in going after technological innovation and looking vaguely at numbers or, even worse, not having them well-defined.
This is the only way to make human assets also understand the goals of the organization.
For Robert Duque, Brazil has much to contribute to AI development
Responsible for applied intelligence at Accenture, Robert Duque is a French exponent of Harvard and has held more than 6 positions at FICO — an analysis company that helps businesses make better decisions in pursuit of growth and success.
Besides speaking Portuguese, it’s clear that Duque’s proximity to Brazil also includes an emotional side.
Duque addressed the public aiming to break the first reaction that many companies have when they need to face technological innovation: it hurts. A pain that is entirely in the world of ideas.
Petrobras, Oi, and Albert Einstein Hospital were some of the companies attended by Robert. He wanted to show that it’s unnecessary to be so defensive when the subject is Artificial Intelligence.
Fernando Martins proves that there is, indeed, innovation in Brazil
As to strengthen his colleague’s talk, Fernando Martins, who worked for over 19 years at Intel, brought to the audience several examples of Brazilian companies that already have a digital transformation mindset.
The current Strategic Consultant at Ambar showed his organization’s work. The company is in the area of civil construction but has also passed through several sectors.
Some known Brazilian brands, such as Guia Bolso and QuintoAndar, Brazilian unicorns, gained space in his presentation, but not only them. Solinftec, from agriculture, and Hoobox, from health care, were also featured.
The electric things have their life too. Human and machine practices in Frontiers #1
In the afternoon part of Frontiers #1, MIT Sloan Management Review Brazil prepared panels of four to two people.
Natura, Movida, SulAmérica, Acesso Digital, UnitedHealth Group, Vivo, GSC Integradora de Saúde, and Big Data. These were the companies invited to speak to an audience that included representatives of large corporations, from Ford to Itaú.
The speeches varied among three themes: applications of artificial intelligence technology, how AI helps to approach the client, and, finally, how CEOs act when facing the challenges of this type of technology.
The guests shared victories and discussed the difficulty of adopting processes focusing on machine learning (ML) and narrow artificial intelligence, which brings a more focused approach to AI.
Natura, which today has a customer service backed by ML, still needs to deal with crises caused by different situations.
It was clear that the speakers, as well as the audience, didn’t have all the answers. But what they did have was the courage to take the first steps towards this great technological innovation.
It’s not just thinking creatively, but being willing to test and learn from mistakes.
Just like when “Acesso Digital” needed to decide which way to go to overcome the problem of facial recognition of individuals with glasses, said Rafael Mansur, Head of Products at the brand.
Another example was Cristiano Barbieri, who confessed that it’s impossible to move forward without partnerships.
SulAmérica’s Head of Digital Strategy, Innovation, and Technology called attention to the fact that opening companies to others are one of the paths to success in Industry 4.0.
His speech was supported by João Torres, from Vivo. For the head of Digital Marketing of the telecom company, an essential part of this process is understanding what technologies converge with those the company already has.
For the speakers, it’s been a long time since we’ve stopped seeing technology only as a tool. That would be too simplistic.
The key really turns when we start seeing machines as bridges to solve extremely human problems that previously seemed unsolvable.
All the discussions in Frontiers #1 reinforced that culture is the first step to succeed on this path of transformation.
While the discussion may seem disruptive and astonishing to some people, Artificial Intelligence will never supply human components.
The final monologue of Philip K. Dick’s masterpiece already stated, in 1968, that we are heading for a moment when technology would be like tears in the rain.
We’re getting closer and closer to that, but we know that we are the ones who will always have the capacity to dream.
Are you interested in learning more about technology and artificial intelligence? Check out our post where we discuss IOTA, the third generation of Blockchain.