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October 4, 2016

Fortune Favors The Learners

Posted by Claire Hockin (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:01 AM

Fortune Favors The Learners

In 1956 the Fortune 500 looked radically different than it does today: over 80 percent are no longer in this exclusive group. Many do not even exist anymore. And the pace of change has increased. A third of those in the ranking a decade ago are no longer listed. Most of these companies had innovation departments... so what went wrong?

Is innovation an expert skill, or a mindset? The key to surviving, and thriving, is about having a workforce with the right skills to be able to anticipate, respond and scale at speed in an uncertain future. This was the message Dr. Vishal Sikka conveyed to the audience at Oracle Open World in San Francisco recently - which you can watch here.

The ubiquity of computing and an 'always-on' digital culture is powering the relentless advance of new, smarter technologies. As industries converge we see technology revolutionizing traditional products - a smartphone is a "supercomputer in your pocket. And a self-driving car is not simply a car, but a computer in the shape of a car" explained Vishal. Some day in the very near future, we will no longer be able to avoid (or likely live without!) technology. Perhaps some of us are there today. Technology will be invisibly embedded into everything around us. After all, "every company is a tech company, but most haven't realized it yet".

Technology will connect us, help us make sense of the world around us, and help us do things that we once could only dream of. We are at the cusp of another revolution and this time it's a human revolution, powered by technology.

And so the language of the future is universal - and it's the language of code. Vishal brought two external views to the audience - that of Alan Kay, the computer pioneer, talking about learning and human behavior, and of Vandana Sikka, chairperson of Infosys Foundation USA, talking about computer science education. Vandana explained that digital literacy today is lower than actual literacy in the Dark Ages. This illustrates an astonishing skills gap that must be filled in order to understand and thrive in an increasingly digital world. Computer science education is a fundamental cornerstone of this process, especially as it encourages hands-on learning and problem-solving - skills, which are key to staying relevant and being creative.

This thinking is reflected in the Infosys grassroots movement called Zero Distance, which has taken hold across all of our teams and projects, with the help of Design Thinking. More than 110,000 employees so far have been trained in Design Thinking, and are learning to better understand and even anticipate our clients' needs. That doesn't make every one of these people a designer, but it instills a sense of curiosity, creativity and problem-finding, rather than simple problem-solving, so that we can amplify the work we are doing in a more meaningful way. These are the soft skills which complement and accelerate our people's technology expertise.

Learning has been the key to change across all cultures and generations. Today, the difference between being disrupted or being a disrupter is in honing a culture of, and passion for, learning. At Infosys, learning has been at the heart of our values from our inception in 1981, and today moves us beyond the original principles of competency training to the challenge of learning to 'unlearn' - the very ethos of Design Thinking. In this way, we can protect ourselves and our clients from becoming irrelevant - like those 438 Fortune 500 companies.

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