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TT at the IFB 2016: "Boosting growth and innovation for a competitive, thriving economy"

on Tuesday 14 June 2016 Written by Jurga Zilinskiene


On Tuesday 14th June 2016, our CEO Jurga Žilinskienė took up an invitation to speak at the International Festival of Business, on the subject "Boosting Growth and innovation for a Competitive, Thriving Economy". This year, the prestigious event is being held in the city of Liverpool.. It operates in association with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the government department dedicated to promoting growth in UK based companies, and encouraging the development of international trade and export links. Jurga took part in a panel event organised by COBCOE , the Council of British Chambers of Commerce in Europe, an official partner of the IFB 2016.

The inaugural International Festival for Business in 2014 resulted in £280 million worth of trade and investment deals being brokered, and many more significant commercial relationships taking root.  The IFB 2016 promises to deliver an ideal forum for further important networking, as more than 30,000 delegates from the four corners of the globe descended on Liverpool’s Exhibition Centre.

To boost growth and innovation, to make us competitive, and to thrive in the global economy, we must do three things.

First, we urgently need far more bright young things to drive future innovation. Why? Because our current turnout from universities is abysmal!  In the UK only a quarter of today's graduates possess the literacy skills required to succeed in the workplace (OECD, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2014)

Second, we need technology to make us more productive and grow international markets. Why? The UK is 40% less productive than the US.

To quote Jeremy Warner of the Telegraph: “Too many British companies are lazily content to rely on the captive market of UK household consumption to feed their growth, rather than seeking a place in fiercely competitive international markets. And too many British entrepreneurs seem to regard the purpose of business as simply that of stripping their companies down to the last light bulb, dressing them up for sale, and then retiring to the country with their Labradors.”

That is not my vision for business, nor is it the way I want to be viewed by media.

Third, we in business must take far more responsibility. Why? Because it is good for business and we have a duty to future generations.

It is in our power to make technology work for individuals and businesses together in a much smarter way. The current way of managing people, skills, employment is like something we would expect to see in the Stone Age.

The digital revolution has not brought a revolution in business innovation yet. However, we have reached the tipping point and the new race is about to begin.

jurga zilinskiene in the panel

What can we do as businesses to drive the innovation agenda for tomorrow’s world?

To be clear, when I talk about innovation what I mean is creating business opportunities, jobs and prosperity in tomorrow's world - but let's discuss today's world first.
Where is the prosperous business today?

Well, In April 2012, Facebook acquired photo-sharing start-up Instagram for $1bn which employed 13 people at the time. That’s roughly $77ml per worker. In 2014 Facebook bought WhatsApp with a workforce of 55 for $19bn - valued at $345ml per worker.

So, where are the other highly productive business opportunities today?

The UK has been heavily reliant on foreign skilled and unskilled labour to fill the demand for doctors, construction workers, software coders, fruit pickers, and coffee shop baristas. 

Will these jobs exist in tomorrow's world?

If a job is repetitive, it will be automated. According to the computer scientist who oversaw the development of Microsoft Office suite, Charles Simonyi, “nobody would be doing routine, repetitive things anymore.” (Sep 2013, the Atlantic)

Will these jobs exist in tomorrow's world?

Even the most sophisticated activity that needs a human brain to preform can be replaced.

I am a software coder and I also employ thousands of the greatest minds in the world. They are linguists. Even my business is not immune from the advance in technology.

I want to tell you a story about Michelle.

Michelle (not her real name) is a former military intelligence soldier and a linguist. She is a rare breed of British person, one of the few who learnt languages. She used language in the battlefield. While serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, she translated messages from the enemy.

Michelle left the army after 9 years. She has government security clearance and now works on some of our more sensitive projects as a contractor.

I have the greatest admiration for this talented, courageous young woman, whose work saves lives. 

As a software coder, I also love technology and am excited by the software that will ultimately put Michele out of work.

This will drive my company's productivity, and improve the bottom line. 

This is a win for me but a loss for Michele.

In a highly competitive commercial world and with other machine translation software, and millions of linguists graduating from universities in China, India and Brazil, why shouldn’t I replace people with machines?

Incidentally, wages in the UK are already very competitive. In fact between 2007 and 2012, starting salaries for UK graduates with bachelor degrees fell in real terms by 11%, from £24,293 to £21,701.

How will this drive innovation in the future?

Michele wants to work in a different way but she needs an infrastructure. She is happy to work with technology and embraces innovation. 

Perhaps some of you have already used the "People per Hour" online platform designed by Xenios Thrasyvoulou and Simos Kitiris (2015), this goes beyond the "Trusted Builder" concept, allowing multiple payment, communication and evaluation channels.

It allows business to source people like Martin - an award-winning 3D engineer who has done work for me in between other projects that he does for a Hollywood Studio.

I believe that we are seeing the start of a revolution in how to source and then completely manage teams. There is one last component needed to drive this revolution. It is the ability to build trust, and we trust people and teams that can do the complex things we instruct them to do.

They do it well, and if something changes they are flexible, responsive. If all goes wrong, they are accountable and insured. 

Sourcing an exceptional freelance website developer or a builder is easy.  Instructing ten of them to design your company’s website or build your new Head Quarters is something that requires considerable coordination.

jurga zilinskiene cobcoe

Currently, technology is struggling to do this cost effectively.

This is changing. Welcome to the age of the Gig-Smith - expert project managers who assemble and coordinate professionals in the new Gig-Economy using state-of-the-art software. They manage teams who are also supported by state-of-the-art software.

This is the new breed of makers, creators and coordinators; man and machine working in a super-efficient manner.

So how can we as businesses drive innovation in tomorrow's world?

Harness the gig-economy by getting the best people available in your sector and recruit your own gig-smiths to manage them. Remember, these are not agency staff.  These are your team.

Support your team with training; there are Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) run by universities such as Stanford, Oxford and Harvard. 
Embrace technology, but remember it is human capital empowered by advanced technology that will win in tomorrow's world.  According to Charles Simonyi we are still long way to go as “software has largely failed to leverage the advances that have happened in hardware.

I am extending my global network to find more of the best people and I would encourage you to do the same before your competitor takes them all.

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