Exponential Technology For An Inclusive Workforce- Paul Epping [Interview]
About Paul Epping
Paul Epping is the co-founder and chairman of EQxponential. He’s a global keynote speaker, and his interests are in exponential technologies, information security, and market consulting. He’s a trusted coach and provides consulting for companies of exponential technologies and their impact.
We have the pleasure of welcoming Paul Epping today to our interview series. I’m Sumitha Mariyam from the peopleHum team. Before we begin just a quick introduction of the peopleHum; peopleHum is an end to end one view integrated Human Capital Management Automation platform. The winner of the 2019 Global Codie award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work. We run the peopleHum blog and the video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors every year and publishes around two interviews with well-known names globally every month.
We’re thrilled to have you.
Thank you so much. Very welcomed to have a talk and have a conversation with you about things that are extremely of interest now for the people for individuals, but also for economies and their governments.
It’s absolutely our pleasure to have you.
I’m starting off with the first question I have for you, Can you tell us a little bit about your journey? What brought you to EQxponential?
Yeah, that’s indeed a long, long story and it brought me actually to this point because I’m involved for most of my life in technology and technology-related areas. And some part of that is in healthcare tech, I’ve been CIO in several big hospitals and I studied information technology. So that is all those things together.
That it is already the late 20th century that I saw things changing pretty quickly, but I couldn’t grasp it. I couldn’t really figure out what was going on. And then I discovered the work of Ray Kurzweil, he is an inventor. His people say that he is the second Einstein, but an incredibly brilliant person. He invented the synthesizers for instance OCR, text-recognition etcetera.
He published a white paper. The law of accelerating is returning and our returns. That was a kind of an eye-opener for me. I thought well that gets me set to see that technology, specifically computational power, is doubling every 1.5 years roughly based on the law. But he reasoned that back until the beginning of the 20th century up to the end of the 20th century.
The principal, actually is that the computational power is increasing whereas the price, performance is dropping, and that is a repetitive pattern and of course it goes fast. That is the very nature of what we call today exponential technologies because that is the engine that exponential technologies could flourish.
Today we see the best example of that in artificial intelligence that is already over 70 years out there. But we didn’t have the computational power to do the calculation, so I saw it and then I read reports of some files. Then I read his book ‘The Singularity is near’ published in 2005 and I met him in 2008, and he announced there that he and the co-founder, Peter Diamandis, would start the Singularity University.
So I was one of the first to go there, and that was actually a confirmation of what I saw around me. And now I had the vocabulary to talk about, to also express that to other people and could change my thinking about it.
I had a long career in keynote speaking, and then I worked in big companies for big companies, tech companies and combining that experience with big companies and the keynotes that I did and the discussions with the audience is that people don’t have really an understanding about what’s going on in terms of technology, the speed with which things changing is underestimated.
And so that’s the long story short to the decision that I started with my good friend and co-founder Dieterich Qureshi, is a futurist, our new company at the beginning of last year and to help companies to understand and to adapt, to that fast-changing technological world.
We do all kinds of offerings but the focus is on creating awareness and helping companies with toolsets to adapt to that fast change involved. That’s basically very out at the moment.
That’s quite a wonderful journey you had at each point where you learn something new and move forward with it. That’s amazing.
And you know what exactly is the objective of mass transformation? What are the key elements?
Yeah! So what we have seen, probably if I understand you well, you are pointing at the massive transformative process. So I think the exponential technologies do have the potential to disrupt. Well, the best example is, of course, our smartphones, the smartphones literally disrupt the way we communicate, the way we are using information and also to help us to organize our daily life a little bit.
A lot of health apps are out there helping us to monitor ourselves etc. That is messy. So over 4-5 billion people today are using mobile devices, and that is still increasing and that will be really massive.
I think in 2025, where two to three new billions new minds are entering the Internet. And if they are going to communicate and exchange information, that is also a massive transformation “And those people who are entering in the next couple of years on the Internet, they are not doing that with 3G or whatever. They are immediately jumping to 5G, and that brings us a completely new equation to what we call a massive transformation. So think about that, all those new minds, because we have new tools we have open platforms are going to exchange new ideas.”
“And those people who are entering in the next couple of years on the Internet, they are not doing that with 3G or whatever. They are immediately jumping to 5G, and that brings us a completely new equation to what we call a massive transformation. So think about that, all those new minds, because we have new tools we have open platforms are going to exchange new ideas.”
That Mel part will lead to new insights and brilliant people who are not able to join for a variety of reasons, the Internet then allows capable to join because the price dramatically drops. That is what we see. That is the consequence of exponential technologies, that the prize is nothing, and that leads to another thing in our economy but it is probably for a later discussion is that it deflates our economy because it’s getting cheaper and cheaper and cheaper.
For instance. Airbnb is a perfect example, for Airbnb to add a new room to their portfolio is practically at zero cost. , if Marriott wants to add a new room they have to build a new hotel. Well, you are a couple of years down the road and way more expenses that deflate the hotel business, Uber for the same that’s deflating the taxi business, etcetera.
So the new technology and the driver’s computational power makes this happen. That it will be adopted to a lot of people and debt opens completely new perspectives. So that’s the message.
Well, that’s very insightful. That’s a very thought-provoking answer so you know, change is something that is the only thing constant everywhere.
So when did you know organizations find a need to change the way they think or adapt newest practices to exponential technologies for a change?
“Well, even the organization sits idle. They are out of business. And it’s simple, isn’t it? So you cannot have not moved on, you cannot not change. Like the saying, “today is the slowest day for the rest of your life”. That means that tomorrow you have to do things differently. Companies based on the principles of the 20th century are doomed to fail in the 21st century, and that is what we are seeing.”
“Well, even the organization sits idle. They are out of business. And it’s simple, isn’t it? So you cannot have not moved on, you cannot not change. Like the saying, “today is the slowest day for the rest of your life”. That means that tomorrow you have to do things differently. Companies based on the principles of the 20th century are doomed to fail in the 21st century, and that is what we are seeing.“
The big fortune 500 companies are struggling big time now because they not only have a portfolio that is diverse and they are also not digitized yet only the companies that are from, let’s say, the foundation of digitized survived and are getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
Not that it is a good thing, but that is just a consequence, that you are digitized first or that you are not digitized. Change your offerings and products incrementally but you are staying on your own of what you are doing, so per definition, that is not diverse and those companies are going to struggle. That’s what I see.
Because of what I just said, the rate of exponential change is in itself exponential, and it accelerates. I coined this century ZIP’21 if you unzip it we have 20,000 years of technological development. So if you are sitting idle for one year, well, you’re losing basically 5-6 years. So that’s very our inner and that requires an exponential mindset. The problems that we see today around us are in exponential nature and you cannot solve them with linear thinking.
So what does that mean? For instance, linear thinking is, if I make 30 steps, then I know where I am at 5 steps, 10 steps, 15 steps, and I know about where I am at 30 steps, and I just walked 3,4,5 If I do that in an exponential world, then it is 1,2,4,8,16 etcetera. And by step 30 I’m 26 times around the world.
That’s the difference. Or if I fold a little paper 50 times. If I was able to do that 50 times, if I am at folding 49 I do the less rolling to 50 I reach, I reach a distance from halfway from the earth to the sun to this earth. And so if I fold it less than one millimeter thick 50 times, I am at the sun, that’s exponential growth because the doubling is what we underestimate.
Yes, so do you also think about the exponential growth of an organization. Of course, you need the employees to exponentially think so being creative and innovative and space to facilitate that exponential thinking is quite important for that to have exponential growth.
Yeah, I mean, the basic is that you understand exponential thinking. So the change that deteriorates Gutenberg ever heard about Gutenberg, who was a person in the 15th century who invented the printing press. That was the start of let’s say, spreading information in printed form around the world. It took a couple of ages before that was available everywhere. That was an invention that changed the world of information, but it took a couple of ages.
Today we have about 20 exponential technologies heading at the same time, our society. So we have now 20 Gutenberg bombs at the same time, but not at the pace as was the Gutenberg transformed, but at a pace of exponential growth.
I would say those exponential technologies are merging, are intersecting, are converging and that acceleration in itself again leads to new products that lead to new solutions, if you, for instance, merge artificial intelligence with nanotechnology and robot technology.
You get something like nanobots, you cannot see them with your eye, but you do have a lot of intelligence on board and imagine what you can do with that skill, with robots on that skill. Well, you can release them in your body and they can clean your body from the inside out,
There are a lot of examples that are happening at the moment. Gene editing, for instance. It was a couple of years ago nobody heard about it. But today children are playing in the garage with gene-editing tool kits and changing things, which also is dangerous but a defect that we are merging a lot of technologies to even on a micro and nanoscale. We are able to do amazing things. Yeah, and that’s where we are at the moment.
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Absolutely. That’s wonderful. And you know, putting it that it sounds very interesting to explore that area and also, you know, technology, even it comes to people managing. So in an organization where you manage a lot of people in human resources.
How do you think we can adopt technology to improve engagement and a better experience for people working in an organization?
So a lot of modern organizations, what we call exponential organizations are using social technologies, social technologies, like knowing what steps on whatever, but not for the company itself, but it is all open for everybody. So that technology can be easily used and it helps us.
There are examples of companies that don’t allow any more emails because it’s too much time. For instance, years ago when I was CIO in several hospitals in the Netherlands and I started my job I called all the team together and I said, “Guys, we are using email but if I get an email longer than 10 sentences, I don’t read it and so make your points in less than 10 sentences” Because if you get 100’s of emails a day, you are reading all day and you cannot do your work properly. I guess.
So that’s one thing, but the other thing is, we have to be really cautious with it. And that’s my caveat in using an HR technology, it is your digital assistants telling you what I have to do or telling me what I have to do.
They are keeping my agenda and that is connected to HR departments, that are connected to my insurance company, which is connected to whoever is interested in my daily pattern. Did you sleep? Did you exercise? Were you on time? Did you do the work that you are supposed to do? And can you prove that?
So all kinds of those little things can be merged into digital assistants and digital assistance gives you a perfect picture, an image of daily things that you are doing, and that can be imprisoned in the end. Or for some people, it can be freedom, but it depends on how you’re going to use it.
At firstly it was like, first people are in an amazing and awe state like “awe is that possible?” Then they get addicted to it. And once you are addicted, well, that’s really, really hard to not use your digital assistant because you are lost.
But then it can become toxic and once it becomes toxic; imagine that in an HR department you are more and more pressuring your cell because interrelated whatever to do those controls. And I think that is not a good scenario.
Moreover, it takes the creativity out of people. And because now they have to follow the rules of people you are working for and that is all based on output. My output is more important than my input. And so how do you organize proper input for the purpose of that organization.
That’s a wonderful answer.
And what do you think, How are we going to change? Do you think there is a change that is awaiting us once we come out of the pandemic, the way we work, and get to life after all the social distancing and lockdowns are over? Do you think we’re going to go back to the office and be the same?
I think there will be a lot of tension, so I hear a lot. And I think first. Coined it this good, to Corona fighters a recent. And then after I said it to myself, I thought, that is not a good thing, because a recent means that you are going back to what it lost, and I think that will not happen. But there will be a fight because people know what the normal was, but they don’t know what the new normal will be. And how does it look like, they have to build it?
And that doesn’t go without any struggle. ‘No pain, No gain’. So you have to go through a transformation process like metamorphosis to a caterpillar to a butterfly. You have to go in that direction. Because if we are as a society, as an economy, as the world is going back to what we did, we can predict that the next crisis will happen again in a couple of years from now. You don’t need a college to understand that.
Moreover, to really organize ourselves and the abilities of ourselves has been revealed by these little times. We are completely desk integrated. We are not aligned with each other. People are not prepared to continue their work in a different way. There are no safety nets. Companies didn’t build a kind of a safety net for this kind of trouble and struggle and again and again, economists are propping the economy with a lot of new money that is printed, causing inflation.
And the money that is now pumped into the economy basically goes to the big companies. And what about all those little entrepreneurs, startups, etcetera well, they are going bankrupt that is what we see today.
Because we are trying to go back to what was instead of using the crisis to come up with something new, to do new things. “This crisis has so many opportunities. I haven’t been ever in my whole life so busy as during crisis, as with all kinds of new opportunities and developing a school of opportunities. But you have to see it and you have to be able to think, let’s say 3,5,10 years ahead, how things are going to change. but the main, let’s say the main answer to your question. I think we are not going back to what it was normal.”
“This crisis has so many opportunities. I haven’t been ever in my whole life so busy as during crisis, as with all kinds of new opportunities and developing a school of opportunities. But you have to see it and you have to be able to think, let’s say 3,5,10 years ahead, how things are going to change. but the main, let’s say the main answer to your question. I think we are not going back to what it was normal.”
Let me give you a little example before we can move on to the next question. We are using Zoom now. So I was one of the people who was using Zoom when there were not that many people, so we were struggling with the platform itself. But anyway so I had a certain moment just before the crisis hit and soon had about 10 million users in less than a couple of weeks it grew to 250 million. So don’t think that it will ever go back to 10 million. But what it does is like, we are talking to each other, we can see each other, we can reconnect, we can do a lot of things, we can edit what we were talking about.
But what we also do is use it for office purposes. So people are now meeting each other via Zoom, product meeting, team meetings… the whole day on, you know, and you are now flexible to do that. So the question now is do we need all those officers? Do we need the space that we are now using to meet each other? Do we need the big hotels for conferences, whereas we can have conferences online? So those kinds of effects will be, um they’ll be causing tensions with the old economy. So there will be a lot of struggling.
If you are going to a seminar, you don’t need to travel. You can do it at home. So that will be also pressure. The airplane companies, the taxi companies, the public transportation etcetera, so it has a kind of a domino effect, and that is what we see everywhere. And that’s a little tension for sure.
You framed that answer so well that after listening to it I have a strong feeling, you know, there is going to be a new normal no matter what. Also when we think of the financial crisis that’s coming up, We have a lot of millennials who have started work and GenZ and everything. And then we have the gig economy rising.
So do you think with this current situation, the gig economy is here to stay?
Oh, yeah. That will solve, I’m 100 percent sure, I basically do my work online. We already did the work online for 60% or so, but now it’s home with 100% and that is one thing. I can basically offer or execute my work for companies or people on the other side of the world, it doesn’t matter. So I am what we call a digital nomad. So it doesn’t matter where I am. I can do my work because I organized my work digitally and a lot of modern entrepreneurs and startups built their company from scratch digitally. So that means they are very flexible. They can scale easily.
I can add new clients to my portfolio without any whatever, I have contracts and everything digitized. So it’s just a-head on a button. That’s all very easy today. And, we don’t need to travel. We can basically do our work from home, and I can organize a big conference of over 1000 people in my kitchen here where I’m sitting and the whole world can join it. The tools out here it’s not that expensive, and it will be cheaper and cheaper and cheaper here.
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Well, that’s one of my personal favorite questions to ask when I have a chance to talk with the people who make a difference because I get a lot of perspectives, especially on the gig economy. People have the idea that it is here to stay. But ‘how’ is the question.
So I really like your answer and Paul just to wrap up the interview if you have any last soundbites that you would like to leave our audience?
So I think for the audience to describe it, hopefully it opened your eyes. What has to be changed in the world? What would you do tomorrow differently based on what you see around? That can be the media. That is how hospitals are struggling with taking care of patients, how transportation is organized, how we’re communicating, etc, and then on top of that the exponential technologies that are coming off.
What could you do with those kinds of new insights to build your own business or to change your company in such a way that you are more adaptable, that you diversify yourself and the offering step you are doing and in our company, we build a lot of toolsets, let’s say online tools and workshops that help companies to make that change?
And so we see so many opportunities now. And that is the positive thing that I would share with you, open your eyes and look around. What is not good, in my opinion? And how can I change that? Get together with a couple of people and work on ideas because those ideas are so important. And I bet there will be a lot of interesting ideas coming out that will have the potential to hit the market and will break through existing establishments that are proven and not functional let us be honest.
The other thing is that if I also can give you a hint, take a look at the SDG, the sustainable development goals of the UN. Those are the 17 big problems in the world that we have to figure out, that we have to solve to make this world a better place to live and just take a look at that and then make the combination with your own observations of things that could be changed. And once you have combined those and the problem is really big, then your opportunities are really bigger.
And that is a new way of thinking. That is exponential thinking and that is the new way to go. “I’m very optimistic about, where we’re going, we have to be very cautious at the same time because the tension can be really a tough thing, and I cannot predict where in what direction it will the go, but it will have a lot of tension in the next decade I think. Yeah be positive. If your mindset is positive, you see positive things to change.”
“I’m very optimistic about, where we’re going, we have to be very cautious at the same time because the tension can be really a tough thing, and I cannot predict where in what direction it will the go, but it will have a lot of tension in the next decade I think. Yeah be positive. If your mindset is positive, you see positive things to change.”
That’s a great last piece of advice and for the last 30-35 minutes was an absolute pleasure for me to listen to you. And it was a very interesting experience for me personally because someone who is in the beginning stages, talking to someone like you is, you know, a different experience for us listening to you one on one rather than reading a book. It’s truly insightful thank you so much for that.
And yeah, to your listeners, If you want to link on LinkedIn, for instance, please feel free because I’m posting a lot of this kind of insight, on the Arlington. yeah, take whatever you need and stay healthy. And it was a pleasure toe to share some of my ideas with you.
Yes. Have a safe and healthy time ahead of you.
Thank you. Bye-bye.
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