Ranjani Mani, Global Analytics Leader, VMWare

Ranjani Mani, Global Analytics Leader, VMWare on Mindfulness and rapidly changing business dynamics

 

How is AI Analytics powering the future of work, what are the critical considerations for business and tech leaders considering the rapidly changing business dynamics due to COVID?

In my view, there are three key areas to address – how AI is impacting the future of work, the role of converging tech to accelerate the future, and key skills to stay relevant.

In the near term, AI will continue to drive an impact across sectors from Telemedicine to enabling our increasingly remote-first knowledge workers. Also, the convergence of exponential technologies across AI, quantum computing, 5G, IoT networks, AR/VR, Blockchain or 3D printing will transform every industry and the way we live in the next decade or so. As Peter Diamandis calls out in his Abundance series, these coming together of technologies will disrupt every major industry across healthcare, transportation, retail, education, real estate to even how we consume technology.

How will this impact the way we hire, retain, and upskill our workforce? What does this mean for our future? The 2020 McKinsey business book of the year called a ‘World without Work’, argues that our age of security is fated to come to an end eventually. Technological progress will make us more prosperous than ever before. Yet that progress will also carry us to a world with less work for humans.

The economic problem that haunted our ancestors – that of making the economic pie large enough for everyone to live on will fade away and new problems will emerge to take its place.

We need to therefore consider how we continue to stay relevant – in a world very different from our own.


Leadership has certainly been tested due to COVID; some have risen beyond expectations. The rest are either sailing or struggling, Ranjani, share your definition of effective leadership how they create high-performance teams.


As Lao Tzu says, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists…when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will all say: We did it ourselves.”

Many organizations now adopt a remote-first knowledge economy that is very different from the industrial era processes that sought efficiency. What we need from such a workforce largely is creativity, agility, freedom, and sense of ownership.

I would call out the following 5 leadership principles:

 

  1. Always hire people smarter than yourself –That is the only way of raising the bar and the average intellectual capital of the team. Once you have a high performing team and you have enabled them with clear goals, trust them to do their job.

 

  1. Be fanatical about the team values– Individuals learn from peers. Focus on the values of integrity, trust, love for learning and mutual respect if you want them to adopt from each other. Trust is the basis of a solid team.

 

  1. Encourage candour– Netflix’s Reed Hastings talks about how he builds a ‘culture of candour’. He talks about how the onus is on the leader to seek feedback first from the team, accept it in the right spirit, and then work towards incorporating it.

 

  1. Balancing Ugly Baby and the Beast– Pixar’s Ed Catmull called out the need to ‘balance the ugly baby and the beast’ in leading a creative team. Leaders play a critical role in challenging the team to think innovatively and protect the initial ideas [ugly babies] while continuing to drive business value [feeding the beast]. Strike a balance between creativity and discipline.

 

  1. Finally, McKinsey described five qualities that will be critical for business leaders to find their way to the next normal: resolve, resilience, return, reimagination, and reform.

 

You may also read: Top 25 Leadership Qualities for 2021

 

As we all know, Mindfulness is among your favourite topics, Ranjani, please share with us the components of leadership mindfulness considering impact of COVID at workplace.

This year has been hard on all of us. Our workdays were usually book-ended from the time we left for work to the time we got home. Now, in the remote set-up, we are constantly switched on – this has a huge cognitive load on all of us.

Marie Lacroix defines a mental burden, or a cognitive load, as “the cost of processing information in most given circumstances for an individual”. “Our limited cognitive resources can only deal with a certain number of tasks at the same time without running into some difficulty.”

I believe that practising mindfulness in all we do and how we lead is critical.

Mindfulness can help reduce stress, increase resilience, develop trust, and encourage divergent thinking. Developing team mindfulness can create a collective awareness of what the team is experiencing and reduce conflict.

 

For example – do we really need that additional meeting? Are you enabling the team to work without constant context switching?

There is also increasing cognizance across organizations around strong employee wellness programs to prioritize mental health during the pandemic and beyond.

 

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