In the second part of the story about the breathtaking conference, which took place in early June, we’re giving you four more interviews with heroes from Nike, Google, and WhatsApp about the skills of Homo de Futuro, or the Man of the Future, in which knowledge of advanced technologies is closely intertwined with modern art.
Before continuing reading, take a look at the first part!
Emerge Hosted Parties and a Meditation Session
The second day of Emerge began at 10 am in deserted halls. Obviously, not everyone could come so early after the first party. The night before, Brioni Cole, an evangelist of futuristic sex from New York, mixed her signature cocktails at the bar deep into the night.
Charged with energy during the group meditation arranged for the participants by Eddie Stern, the majority went to the farewell party. To be honest, we come to tech events to network and make new acquaintances — and the easiest way to do this is in a relaxed atmosphere. The conference here acts as a kind of tornado — it sucks up the right people together so that they eventually end up at the wine bar.
It is difficult to say which experience would work best for you — listening to several speeches that compare pictures at museums and ancient artifacts to the gleam of new technological products; or getting acquainted with thirty people from different creative industries in one night.
Eddie Stern, Co-Founder, The Breathing App
Eddie Stern, yoga teacher to Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna, is now working with Deepak Chopra and Moby on The Breathing App, a mobile app that teaches people to restore their bodies naturally through breathing.
Speaking about the field of advanced technologies, terms like ‘emerging’ and ‘disruptive’ are often used (note: arising from nowhere, changing the rules of the game). In fact, this isn’t anything new. This is how we’ve been programmed by nature through millions of years of evolution. We had to look for opportunities for big breakthroughs in order to survive, unite with other people and make progress.
Stagnation hinders evolutionary development and communal involvement — to which, in fact, our universe aspires.
Therefore, we’re driven by a manifestation of the same spark of creativity that gave us fire, written language, telephony, and so on.
This essence is inside of us — we are constantly creating something and transcending what we’ve achieved because we are naturally creative beings. And I’m not saying this in a religious sense, rather, that all nature is founded upon this essence. We can be closer to this essence if we don’t resist changes but create them and adapt to them.
Sometimes people say, “God, how cool it was without cell phones when we could actually get together for dinner in the dining room to talk.” But then, without cellular communication, among other innovations that have improved our lives, we endured the Cold War and the threat of nuclear bombs.
Nothing is perfect. We always contemplate an idyllic past. Stagnation hinders evolutionary development and communal involvement — to which, in fact, our universe aspires.
We can feel how little we know about the world only when we try to transform the everyday routine, letting go of our conviction that we understand what is happening. Because we understand nothing.
If we experience stress too often, our sympathetic nervous system works longer and harder and releases excess cortisol and adrenaline.
My breakthrough is the practice of breathing. When we experience stress, the frequency of our respiration increases and our hearts race.
In the last 320 million years, our nervous system has evolved to avoid obvious threats. Therefore, when we perceive danger or experience conflict, we release certain hormones and neurotransmitters to trigger a “fight-or-flight” response.
If we experience stress too often, our sympathetic nervous system works longer and harder and releases excess cortisol and adrenaline. The body becomes overwhelmed with hormones that become unbalanced. In extreme cases, this leads to cardiovascular problems — heart disease, diabetes, cancer, indigestion, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
Breathing and the work of the nervous system are directly interrelated — a change in one affects the other.
In order to recover from sympathetic fatigue, we need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and restore its activity. It is responsible for rest, recovery and digestion.
The balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems is what restores the body to balance and improves health. Their synchrony is called homeostasis.
Homeostasis slows down our breathing so that we can take long, calm and deep breaths. Therefore, when we adjust ourselves to such breathing, we program our nervous system and body to switch to the self-restoration mode.
Breathing and the work of the nervous system are directly interrelated — a change in one affects the other. This is an important insight that I would like to teach people.
Eugene Fooksman, Ex-Engineer, WhatsApp
Eugene Fooksman was one of the first engineers at WhatsApp and worked there from 2010 until he left in 2018.
The world forces us to adapt. Skills are quickly becoming obsolete and new technologies are emerging from out of nowhere. I spent about eight years at WhatsApp hiding my head in the sand. During this time, things have happened in the world that I’m still trying to catch up with. Deep learning, blockchain, and augmented reality are all revolutions of some sort. Therefore, today, if you’re an engineer, you’re obligated to monitor technological trends; otherwise, you’ll be left behind in no time.
It is important for an engineer to understand the general principles of the profession well. Don’t rely on the fact that you have some very narrow technical knowledge or that you know one programming language or technology very well — such people are sifted out. It is important that you can participate in solving various current problems and understand the trends of the field in general.
Deep learning, blockchain, and augmented reality are all revolutions of some sort.
For example, the server for WhatsApp was written in a programming language that few people knew at the time, so it was impossible to hire a professional for it. Therefore, we simply hired good engineers and gave them time to learn the language. If we hired narrow specialists with good knowledge of different languages instead, they would’ve turned out to be one-sided and ineffectual.
At WhatsApp, a new employee is interviewed by 5-7 engineers, and each of them asks different questions about the ins and outs of a specific programming language and asks them to describe real problems and work situations. They try to find out how versatile a person is and where they have holes in their skill set and view of the role.
In a world of startups, people work 10-12 hours a day, and if they have a bad manager, they will quickly burn out because they won’t be able to come to work for something more than just a paycheck.
Soft skills are needed everywhere now. In a world where everything is built on communication, it is impossible to overestimate the ability to communicate, establish new contacts, communicate your thoughts and perceive information. Engineers are usually lagging behind in this, and it seems to me that any company should be ready for this. This doesn’t mean that such engineers are useless. In fact, I’m a little cautious of engineers who demonstrate strong soft skills — they often cover up their weaknesses and lack of technical skills this way.
At WhatsApp, they try to find out how versatile a person is and where they have holes in their skill set and view of the role.
But if you have a managerial position and poor communication, it will be very difficult for everyone. Leadership qualities are needed, in a positive sense of the word. In a world of startups, people work 10-12 hours a day, and if they have a bad manager, they will quickly burn out because they won’t be able to come to work for something more than just a paycheck.
Aleksas Drozdovskis, Ex-Head of Strategy, Wargaming
Aleksas is working with organizations to accelerate learning culture and build brand excellence. Having done this on the agency side with Omnicom Group, he made a transition to build an in-house creative agency at Wargaming, were he was leading strategy development.
I have 10 years of experience in creative agencies. I worked with media and branding, advised companies and created strategies — and after that I built up a creative agency inside Wargaming for advertising and everything related to 4 Ps (note: the 4 Ps theory is a concept in marketing, which focuses on the four main components: Product, Price, Place and Promotion.
At Wargaming, I realized that the real strategy is an understanding of what you will do when everything falls apart. It’s about having a clear perspective on what not to do and what to do in order to make brand promise and brand experience go hand in hand.
The 4 Ps theory is a concept in marketing, which focuses on the four main components: Product, Price, Place and Promotion.
The situation in creative industries varies greatly from one region to another. In companies in the post-Soviet space, no one talks about “how to build strategic alignment within the company, ” only about “how to optimize the sales tunnel.”
I observe different standards of corporate culture and the dynamics with which it is transformed. But I haven’t seen the ideal climate in a particular country. You can find teams with recurring problems in America and Singapore while a startup in Moscow doesn’t have them.
The main skill today is self-awareness and the ability to separate oneself from the ego. If one can’t think outside the framework of egocentrism, it blocks potential in almost any sphere. A broad, objective view without personal biases is needed to understand what the client needs in the end and how to communicate with them.
You can find teams with recurring problems in America and Singapore while a startup in Moscow doesn’t have them.
All young managers have problems. I micromanaged too much when I started managing a team. I didn’t know how to trust and delegate. In a situation like this, the manager exhausts all their personal energy and doesn’t allow people to work, to unlock their potential.
The problems that exist in the world today are cross border. In order to solve those leaders from various companies, industries and countries must work together to find global solutions. This is what creative leadership is about.
Amina Idigova, HR Consultant
In recent years, Amina Idigova has become one of the most frequently mentioned HR consultants in Belarus.
I want to replace myself with an algorithm that will do my job of evaluating personnel much better than I do. Practice confirms that people gravitate towards three patterns in dialogue: omission, generalization and distortion of information.
Most often, defence mechanisms are triggered and people try to seem better than they are or give socially expected answers. Therefore, if it’s an important conversation, such as a performance review, during which people know that they are being evaluated, then it is practically impossible to get reliable information from them.
People gravitate towards three patterns in dialogue: omission, generalization and distortion of information.
I believe the future of the industry involves removing the human factor from interviews with HR specialists who may not notice something or deliberately ignore cliché or risky answers. You always turn a blind eye, consciously or unconsciously, to obvious downsides if a person has made a good impression on you. An algorithm, on the contrary, is created to notice everything and be 100% percent objective.
Now I am looking for a team with which I could make a career guidance platform based on a neuroscience game. In this game, a person must go through a series of simulated work situations and behave in a natural way while artificial intelligence analyzes everything. This way you can assess the motivations in decisions, cognitive and behavioural indicators, and personal characteristics.
With the Belarusian market, everything is still consistently bad — there are not enough people who speak adequate English.
Then a person receives a digital profile based on multidimensional data, which is not only collected by the system but also compared with millions of similar profiles of other players. The platform can select educational courses and job offers based on its findings. For me, the future of the industry lies in this. I want to exclude myself from subjective work and start training a neural network that could impartially assess a person.
The most useful strategy in the face of uncertainty is to be prepared for something unknown to happen and to be in constant dialogue about the future.
People historically have been fascinated by tests assessing cognitive intelligence, and it was believed that this is exactly what you need to cultivate in yourself. Some time ago, the hype changed, and we started talking about emotional intelligence, or EQ. Now we talk about adaptive intelligence, or AQ — the ability to be flexible, constantly relearn and adapt to exponentially changing living conditions. The whole world went into a state of upheaval and “stability and confidence in the future” remained only where there is no future.
Any prediction of the future, whether it be fortune-telling or quasi-rational expert forecasts, has more often a therapeutic than a predictive effect. Most of the books by the famous economist Nassim Taleb are about how naive people are when they try to predict the future based on the extrapolation of the present. Therefore, the most useful strategy in the face of uncertainty is to be prepared for something unknown to happen and to be in constant dialogue about the future. That is, to respond to what is happening and adjust your plans in real time.
Now we talk about adaptive intelligence, or AQ — the ability to be flexible, constantly relearn and adapt to exponentially changing living conditions.
I often hear that people don’t want to hire millennials because they are lazy and can’t be controlled. In fact, this generation is not enough for everyone. According to Professor Kapitsa’s demographic calculations, the new trend in the world is the prevalence of 30-45-year-olds in the labour market. With the Belarusian market, everything is still consistently bad — there are not enough people who speak adequate English. Often, the skills of a good programmer are completely levelled by the fact that they don’t know a foreign language.
The ability to communicate is a major hindrance our time, because our people can be very smart but unable to convey information and share it with others.
Our product development thinking is very poor. People are used to going from A to B, as they were told. This is due to outsourcing — there are many companies in the country that make by-order designs for the rest of the world. People don’t understand how to make a product. They can only perform a set of tasks that they were assigned, but they can’t create a complete product.
The ability to communicate is a major hindrance our time, because our people can be very smart but unable to convey information and share it with others.
There are situations with programmers when an assistant, a sort of an augmented person (note: artificially enhanced, embedded) is hooked up to a specialist, who knows what he’s thinking and translates what he says to other people.
There are no IT companies and ordinary companies anymore. Even the most real business grows its own expertise in IT; otherwise, it disappears.
Sometimes such a “blackbox” in a project can be a serious risk to a business. I am currently working with a similar situation. A person is assigned a task and he doesn’t make further contact for four weeks until he makes it perfect. He has no clue that there is a progressive improvement in development, which is important to discuss. The person, like an excellent school student, doesn’t show what he’s doing until he reaches perfection.
There are no IT companies and ordinary companies anymore. Even the most real business grows its own expertise in IT; otherwise, it disappears. Without digital channels, there is no longer any way to connect with a customer, build loyalty or maintain communication. If a company doesn’t deepen its expertise in IT, then we, the customers, will go to Amazon or AliExpress — to the corporations that have it.
You can grow managerial skills, but leadership involves frequent communication and the creation of an atmosphere where all people are important and necessary.
Moreover, user experience dominates this whole story. If some local taxi company tries to make the same mobile application as Uber’s, then most likely it will offer a number of similar features, which will be decisive for me — I will just choose Uber. Now, everyone struggles with the user experience that the big players give us, or companies simply give away their customers to them. For example, why should I search for a website with plane tickets if I can simply enter a destination into Google, and it provides me with multiple options on the same page?
There is, of course, a big demand for leaders in the market, but you can’t artificially make yourself a leader. You can grow managerial skills, but leadership involves frequent communication and the creation of an atmosphere where all people are important and necessary, where they feel they are being paid attention to and recognized.
The manager is the one who is in charge. But the leader is the one who makes everybody feel that they are in charge. And very few people have it in their nature or have the tact to do it elegantly and sincerely. The leader makes the others in the company feel that they are not just cogs in the system but vital members of the group.
It is difficult to imagine yourself staying the same person for 80 years. On average, every 7 years, all your values change and it would be nice if they coincided with your partner every time, but in reality, this is not the case. The same is true for the company you work for.
In the last part of the Emerge series you could find the live thriller podcast from Eugene Suvorov and next week hero — Prof. Lev Manovich, New York City University. They will talk about violence and love of the Homo de Futuro.