How are you going to be competitive going into the future? And not just you personally, but your company and even your country. What is the next competitive advantage in technology?
I’m Carey Furze. Thank you for inviting me to speak at your ICT conference this year. I’m grateful to be a part of the ICT conversation, especially in this region of the world. Thank you.
I may not be a technical person, but I’ve created some world-first ICT software, because I saw an opportunity.
My technology helps students collect their family's & communities life stories into personalised books, using voice-to-text AI & collaboration. This brings families and communities together, bonding over sharing personal life experiences and knowledge.
And the data I’m generating is very relevant for everyone in this room to gain a competitive advantage within your field of technology.
And that competitive advantage is Emotional Intelligence.
Emotional intelligence first became popular over 20 years ago with the book by the science journalist Daniel Goleman. He argued that emotional intelligence was just as important as Intellectual intelligence for success, in all aspects of one’s life.
EQ is defined as being able to understand & control your emotions plus have empathy for others, understand other people’s persectives.
But over the last 20 years Emotional Intelligence has sort of been forgotten. Maybe it was the timing, we all got distracted with the advancements in technology. But more recently, we’re seeing the negative effects of solely focusing on technology without the balance of Emotional Intelligence.
I’ve realised the importance of emotional intelligence after launching my startup a few years ago. I’d had 2 books published and I’d just completed an online Bachelor of Communications degree. I saw how new technology could make collecting personal life stories into a book easy, so I created software for older people to create a memoir that they could give to their family as a legacy book. My research showed that older people really wanted to share their life stories, especially with their family and the problem of families not knowing who their grandparents or ancestors were was a real problem.
In the previous 10 years Ancestry.com had become a 5 billion dollar business, teasing customers with ‘Come find your story’ marketing campaigns. But there never were any stories, all they had was a data base of births deaths, marriages and migration. No one had saved the stories.
So I thought, automating the process of collecting these personal life stories would be really valuable. I ran ‘Save your story’ workshops at libraries and in the community, showing older people how using technology made it really easy to collect their life stories into a memoir. But, it was a major fail.
I knew that the problem was real and that my solution was good, but I hadn’t factored that the motivation of ‘ego’ wasn’t strong enough in older people. Older people are humble and they worried that their families were not really interested in their life. The problem was, by the time grandchildren were interested in who their grandparents were, those people were all long gone. Families would inherit a box of photos of people and occasions they knew nothing about. So the vicious cycle of precious family information being lost was continued. But when I questioned these older people more, they said that if their families asked them about their lives they would love to tell them, so that was the game-changer.
The problem was real and the solution was good, but my product-market fit was wrong – my customer was wrong. So when I started asking better questions I realised I needed to flip my business model, so instead of being technology for older people to leave stories as a legacy – it was now technology for kids, to go get the stories, for education.
When I created my startup it was for this demographic, but after asking more and better questions I was now all of a sudden over here with a totally different demographic that I really didn’t know much about. I thought, how can I make kids be the user of my software? So I decided I needed to make schools, make kids, use the program as an education project. I needed to hurry up and learn more about schools and the education system in Australia and make sure I was asking the right questions.
As a part of my research into this new space of young people, I attended a talk in Sydney by a visiting American youth researcher, Professor Jean Twenge, she’d recently written a best selling book called iGen. What was fascinating is that her and her team had been looking at big data collected from over 11 million youths, that’s people aged between 12 and 24, since the mid 1970s. They were looking at trends. Trends in behaviour, social trends, health trends and things like that. What they saw in this big data was something quite alarming. Trends were showing that for almost 40 years nothing much had changed, until 2011.
In 2011 the graphs started to go crazy.
Suicide rates in kids aged 12 to 14 doubled.
Depression was up 50%.
Feeling left out and lonely was off the charts.
Sleep had dropped from over 7 hours a night to below 5.
Sexual activity had dropped dramatically.
All the researchers were horrified. What on earth had happened in 2011 that was causing all this damage to our young people? They wondered if it was because of the Global Financial Crisis in 2007, but eventually, after asking better questions, they realised it was because of one thing… and that was - the iPhone.
Where adults were able to incorporate the iPhone technology, apps and social media into their lives and make their lives bigger, young people did not have the emotional intelligence to use the technology as a tool to make their lives better. Instead of participating in life, they were now watching life through their devices. And this was having devastating effects on mental & physical health.
I found this research really fascinating, because the data on youth depression and disengagement seemed to mirror the research I had found on older people. Both young and old were feeling lonely, isolated and a burden on their families. And the working adults that are sandwiched between their aging parents and dependent children were too busy working and trying to pay the bills to be able to cope with any extra demands. And this is where IT changes everything, because IT can scaffold bringing the young and the old together to help each other and it can be scaled for any language, any culture, anywhere.
I discovered that Schools have been trying to develop student’s emotional intelligence for many decades by doing family and identity projects.
Kids interview their Grandma or Grandpa or someone in the family about their lives and handwrite the stories onto a large piece of cardboard, maybe stick on some photos, the family tree and this is put up on the class wall, for everyone to admire. This develops young people’s understanding of their world & shapes their culture.
By using technology, kids can leverage their usual abilities to be so much better than in the past. Forget about a piece of cardboard with handwritten stories that has no longevity or value for the family. Kids can use IT as a tool to create polished end products in a modern format and that has real value for their family and community. And in the process they develop not only technology skills, but also emotional intelligence.
Governments and Schools around the world understand the need to educate and prepare the next generation for rapidly changing and unknown digital futures. STEM classes are compulsory in education now.
Although most educators are starting to push for it to be called STEAMED, which includes Arts subjects and emotional development lessons.
And my software addresses these requirements: Technology, Arts & Emotional Development.
This education is great for preparing our kids for unknown futures, but what about you, now that you are older and in the workforce?
I believe that humans are at a fork in the road right now.
For thousands of years we have been desperately trying to discover the answers to everything, and sharing those answers to the next generation, who build on these answers with more answers. Which has been fantastic and humans have become the dominant species on the planet because of those answers. But now, with technology, everyday we are generating more information and answers than the previous 2 thousand years combined.
I think it is very important to not focus only on the answers now, but to focus very carefully on…. the questions. From now on sifting through all this data and noise with the right questions will determine who will have that competitive edge. And that’s why you need emotional intelligence – to make sure you’re asking the right questions.
You are the people who are shaping the future. You are creating the algorithms and artificial Intelligence protocols. And hiring the people that will write the code or design the onboarding and payment processes.
Do you really know who your customers are and how and why they will choose your company, product or service? When you are creating the programs are you asking the right questions of the big data you have access to?
Global internet use is forecast to rise dramatically and hundreds of millions of new people will be joining the internet.
And Sri Lankan is the golden triangle. You’re in one of the fastest growing regions, with the advantage of being near India, Asia and Africa. India has a billion people, Asia has a billion people and Africa has a billion people. Are you asking the right questions to create technology for this onslaught of new customers and business opportunities in your backyard?
So, what are the right questions for your business or your industry?
Recent studies have shown that AI and machine learning programs developed racist and sexist language because of the algorithms that created them. The human’s creating the code may not even be aware of their biases, but it becomes magnified once technology learns all those nasty human prejudices and stereotypes. Facebook had to shut down their chatbot because it was getting so abusive, when it was learning from its online community.
We are all a product of our environment. We are a combination of our family’s biological genes and our community’s mentality memes. Memes being the thoughts and ideas that are shared within a community that develops that group’s culture & beliefs. So if you are a Sri Lankan man, who was born 30-50 years ago and have lived at home until marriage, studied locally and maybe had some children. How on earth would you be able to understand what an American woman’s life and experiences are?
I think Sri Lanka is in a great position to be able to outperform traditionally dominant countries because you are a worldly population. You could potentially be a bridge between the traditionally dominant cultures and the newly emerging cultures. Traditional minds who do not evolve, will die. Just like the tour company in San Francisco, who thinks tourists are only Americans.
Sri Lanka’s history with the British and many other nationalities who have come and tried to dominate over the centuries has put you in a unique position. Sri Lankan people have had an insight into many other cultures and different ways of thinking. You speak English and geographically you are in a region that is about to explode with technical advancements and huge populations, that countries that have been dominant up until now, will not be able to compete with.
One of my favourite quotes is ‘A mind stretched never returns to its original dimensions’.
We just have to look at history to see how new ways of thinking became a competitive advantage. The English, Dutch and Portuguese travelled to new lands, disrupted the status quo with their new ideas and created new industries.
Research shows that companies who have diversity in their staff regularly outperform companies that don’t. Not just with profits, but staff turn-over, and company culture. Diversity can be as easy as having staff that are both genders, or having people from different cultural backgrounds, or a mix of ages. This diversity of staff brings diversity of thoughts into a company.
Now you can’t change your gender, or become a different nationality or suddenly become another age, but you can develop your emotional intelligence to bring diversity of thought into your business. And this is a huge advantage.
But it is hard to experience life without the filters that have shaped us, without the prejudices that our family and friends have taught us. If you have lived a life as a man, it is impossible for you to know what a woman’s life is like and vice versa, but we can make an effort to open our minds to other perspectives, other ideas and at least be aware that your way is not the only way.
In conclusion, I hope that you all are thinking about the importance of developing your emotional intelligence, so you can ask the right questions of all the information and noise you’re exposed to. And bring a diversity of thoughts and ideas into your life.
Emotional Intelligence will be your competitive advantage, not only your career, but in every aspect of your life.
My mum used to always say “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
So, if you want to improve your emotional intelligence and increase your chances of success, you have to do something different.
My challenge to you is, …. Before the end of this conference, find 3 people you’ve never met, and ask them “How are you going to develop your Emotional Intelligence?”
Ladies and Gentlemen: Thank you.
Bookform is an online tool for students to collect family & commuity stories into print & digital books, using voice-to-text AI and collaboration: www.bookform.com.au/schools