Have you heard of lil Miquela?
She's a 19-year-old Brazilian-American "influencer" who claims to be a model and pop singer and has more than 1.5 million followers on Instagram.
Since her account appeared two years ago, she has caused quite a stir with many on the social media platform questioning her visual authenticity because she didn't really look human in photos.
No one knew for sure then but Miquela's game was convincing: Her posts showed selfies in labels like Diesel, Balenciaga and Prada and of her "hanging out" with famous musicians like Diplo and Nile Rodgers in chic spots in New York City and Los Angeles.
In an Instagram post last April, Miquela came clean: She is not real. She is instead a computer-generated image and the brainchild of an LA-based firm which specialises in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.
She is among an emerging breed of "fake" virtual influencers who are sending shudders down the spines of their real-life counterparts because technology is here to threaten their existence.
Digitalisation is everywhere
The "Miquela effect" is not exclusive to social media. It is being felt across industries as technology continues to force organisations to rapidly transform the way they operate or be left behind in the dust.
In banks, purely rule-based, manual and repetitive tasks are automated to free humans to carry out more value-added work.
AI-powered chatbots are reducing the need for human intervention, and a plethora of mobile apps are paving the way for better banking services at one's fingertips.
The ubiquitous buzzword today is "digital transformation" and it calls for organisations to increase efficiency, create new processes and optimise data for investments and customer relations.
People drive technology
What many organisations do not realise is that digital transformation is not about deploying the latest technology - it is primarily about people.
Consider this: On the Formula One race track, some of the fastest cars in the world are fine-tuned to hurtle in excess of over 300kmh.
But without talented drivers, these sleek machines stand little chance of crossing the chequered flag in good placing.
Likewise, it will be the organisation’s people who will be in the driver’s seat, steering it to higher levels with new technology amid this digital transformation.
They are essentially the lifeblood and a critical component for digital transformation that will need to buy into the strategy, goals and vision of the organisation.
It’s easy to see why. People who are invested in an organisation will want to see it thrive.
That’s why it is crucial for employees to understand why new technology is being introduced.
It needs to be communicated that the organisation values them, and is committed to ensure that they have long and meaningful careers.
Most importantly, they need to be assured that technology is not here to replace them, even if traditional roles run the risk of being displaced. World Economic Forum data indicates that up to 75 million jobs globally could be lost due to AI and robotics between now and 2022.
To mitigate this, organisations will need to invest in training to reskill and upskill employees to prepare them for future roles.
Employees too, will need to adopt an "agile" mindset to be quick and flexible enough to move into more value-added roles. They should seek to be actively involved in transformation projects or even simple initiatives within departments to improve efficiency, processes and systems.
Additionally, they need to stay curious about the changing world in terms of how companies transform, how roles are evolving and what the future of work will be like.
That is why employees should embrace the concept of lifelong learning, unlearning and relearning which is crucial in today’s world.
Culture drives people
If people are the enablers of technology, culture is akin to the blood running in their veins.
It sets the pace of how well people work, and how engaged they are to achieve results.
Cultural shifts are often challenging because people can be averse to change but if an organisation values its people and puts in sufficient effort, it will be key towards transformation.
A recent report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that of a sample of 40 organisations that underwent digital transformation, the proportion that reported breakthrough or strong financial performance was five times greater among those that focused on culture than it was among those that ignored it.
To get there, organisations will need to refine or reinvent their approach to support a digital culture that is aligned with what they want to achieve. Here are four areas of digital culture that should be considered:
1. Break down silos and replace them with opportunities to collaborate, be creative and innovate to ready employees for constant change.
2. Create a flatter hierarchy to help in speed decision-making and give employees the autonomy to make judgement calls and on-the-spot decisions.
3. Exercise boldness over caution to take risks, fail, and learn.
4. Create an environment that is open and transparent for employees to share ideas or for management to communicate specific strategies or goals.
According to the BCG report, organisations with a strong digital culture are also viewed as being attractive by millennials, and this ensures that top talent is always waiting at the door.
The fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, is happening this moment. It is vastly different from the previous industrial revolutions, characterised by a new range of new technologies that are fusing the physical and digital worlds.
However, what remains constant is that people will remain at the centre of it all.Disclaimer applicable to recommendation
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