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Why Companies Need Technological Literacy at all Management Levels
Within the last year, the new digital age has fully taken hold of global business strategies and developments. Especially in the wake of the Corona crisis, one thing in particular has become clear: Those who want to remain competitive must commit themselves to staying ahead of technological innovations and developing use cases for their respective fields of expertise. Those who fail to do so will almost certainly become irrelevant in the long run. A harsh reality? Sure it is! But as great as the challenge may be, now is not the time to despair and resign. Because while old, established ways of doing business may no longer work, the digital revolution also offers exciting opportunities. Spurred by growth areas such as AI, bioengineering and blockchain, companies and their managers are now able to tap into new markets and increase sales. But what does it take to get there? Prof. Dr. Claudia Peus, Founding Director of the TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning and Senior Vice President for Talent Management and Diversity, TUM, shares her expertise and key research insights on this topic.
“Technological advancements have revolutionized how we communicate, travel or produce goods most substantially in the last couple of decades. Accordingly, new businesses have risen more quickly than ever before – while others have fallen,” Prof. Peus explains. As she points out, some of today’s most prominent companies, such as Facebook, did not even exist 20 years ago. For those who aim to replicate such a success story today, keeping an overview of the latest technological advancements and their potential is a must. Because recent history also has some counterexamples to offer: “We can all think of formerly very successful business organizations that (almost) went bankrupt because they missed an important technological development. Think of Kodak or Nokia, for example.”
AI and bioengineering: two fields to keep track of
While staying abreast of ever shorter innovation cycles across industries has become non-optional, it is of course always hard to predict which technological trends will have the biggest impact on business and our civilization. However, according to Professor Peus, there are a few developments that already show outstanding results and even have the potential to change the destiny of our society. First and foremost: AI and Now, for the first time, a new type of vaccine has been developed using the principles of bioengineering. And consequently, the spotlight has been shining bright on this game-changing interdisciplinary field.
Aside from that, we have also been witnessing essential strides in other areas like quantum technology, blockchain or additive manufacturing – as well as innovations that could ultimately boost a green economy. “All developments towards a more sustainable way of living will further grow in importance,” Prof. Peus emphasizes. “As educators at the TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning our commitment is to help leaders and experts from all sectors of society master the transformation to economic, environmental and social sustainability.”
Companies need a common understanding of the big picture across all departments
To achieve this goal, not every decision-maker needs all the knowledge required to actually develop innovations. Instead, cutting-edge expertise across all company departments, interdisciplinary cooperation and a common understanding is key, Prof. Peus argues: “While senior-level executives need to have more of an overview of technological advances, executives responsible for specific areas or technical experts naturally need to have a more detailed grasp. However, what is necessary for everyone is to capture the implications of a technology, including its ethical and social implications. That’s why it’s so important to us at the TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning to include relevant considerations and discussions in all our programs.”
The magic formula is lifelong learning
Staying at the forefront of technological advancements is, of course, a lifelong process. Like computer programs or operating systems, humans need constant updates in order to stay on top of their game – and position themselves to drive innovation. The message is clear: Only if we keep improving ourselves and acquiring knowledge, we put ourselves in a position to successfully face the challenges of tomorrow. As Founding Director of the TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning, Prof. Claudia Peus stated: “Continuous learning has always been important, it is now more so than ever. The last few months have illustrated this more vividly than anyone could have imagined before. After allhad to learn in no time how to collaborate digitally, hire candidates using digital tools, or even run an entire organization from home,” she explains, adding a perspective: “While hopefully the pandemic will be over in the foreseeable future – the need to learn will not.”
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