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6 things we learned at Shift '19

Thomas Smolders
Resident Writer

On November 6, the offices of In The Pocket were crowded for the latest edition of our annual boutique conference Shift. All day long we listened to interesting keynotes, panel discussions and workshops. These are six things we’ve learned at Shift!

1. We have to focus on AI literacy

Tom Van de Weghe, a journalist at VRT NWS and AI expert, gave the opening keynote of Shift 19. In his talk, he focused on the impact of artificial intelligence and more specifically deepfakes. He showed how realistic these fakes are and how easy it is to create one. At first, they only impacted celebrities, but nowadays we’ll move to a world in which it’s possible to create a deepfake of everyone. We have to start focussing on AI literacy, especially in newsrooms, where 69% of the staff underestimates the impact of artificial intelligence on their job. That impact can be beneficial too, Tom said. On the one hand, there are editorial functions, such as the moderation of comments on articles and the identification of news trends, while on the other hand media can use AI for business-related functions. Automated newsletters, for instance, or interactive chatbots.

2. Diversity is just the start, inclusion is next

Beryl Chung, Senior Creative at MediaMonks, made an important point when she said that diversity is not the same as inclusion. The first is just the start, but what’s next is making sure that everyone feels free to be themselves. We need to have policies and strategies in place to make sure that we’re combating biased behavior. 80% of women in senior positions, for instance, are on the receiving end of biased comments, compared to 64% of women as a whole.

3. Autonomy doesn’t mean no leadership

Over the years, we learned that companies need to be agile, but what are the pitfalls of autonomous teams? In a panel discussion, moderated by our Tribe Lead Robert Stöhr, we asked this question to Lieven Baeyens (VP Engineering at Showpad), Roel Buyzen (Operations at Byteflies) and agile coach Annelies De Meyere. According to them - and us - autonomy is earned, not given. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have leadership, the role of the leadership is just shifting and is more important than ever. It’s the management who’s providing goals and who constraints and nurtures the teams. The most important factor is team stability, which benefits autonomy.

4. You’re probably running a digital platform

Traditionally, people think of platforms as being two-sided marketplaces, connecting supply and demand. Using the view above, it’s only logical to think most companies probably aren’t in the platform business. You simply run a website or two, maybe an app, and a few online tools, right? Spoiler alert: chances are you’re developing a digital platform!

That’s what most people discovered during our platform workshop at Shift. We focused on the characteristics of digital platforms and gave examples through well known platforms like Waze and Deliveroo, so people know how they can use this information to improve their platforms. Soon we’ll reveal more about what we told in this workshop in a specific newsletter on platforms!

5. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

The evening program of Shift was kicked off, as in previous years, with a panel discussion on the shifts in business. In addition to John Porter (CEO of Telenet), Olivier Onclin (Head of Retail and Commercial Banking at Belfius) and Steve Muylle (Academic Director of Online MBA, Professor & Partner at Vlerick Business School) also joined for a conversation moderated by In The Pocket's CEO Jeroen Lemaire.

In the discussion, it became clear how large corporates are increasingly getting into each other's way. The banks and telcos have to look for value-added services and products, which will cause the market to be in turmoil in the coming decades. Thanks to this uncertainty and speed people in the highest levels of companies begin to realize that the agile methodology must become scalable. Or, as John Porter said: ‘We kind of had to change our organization, and hopefully we're doing it right.’

6. The smartphone will become smarter

The closing keynote from Shift was given by none other than Pattie Maes, the world-renowned tech researcher at MIT. The leading authority on human-computer interaction and AI told us that smartphones will become way smarter in the future. We might think that they’re the summum of digital interfaces, while we’re just at the eve of a new generation of interfaces that will work more seamless and automatic.

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