Lucky 7 – Seven Things I Learnt and Look Forward To

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Lucky 7 – Reflecting and Looking Ahead on completing 7 years as CEO

Heralding Lucky 7

This Monday morning was like any other. I am sure I am not the only one who gets this feeling that all forces seem to be conspiring to ensure that the transition from the weekend to Monday is anything, but gradual.

However, there was something more this time. My LinkedIn feed seemed to be buzzing more than usual. As it turns out, my contacts were reminded of my 7th work anniversary!

The buzz got louder and since I can’t ignore it anymore, I decided to make it a hat-trick of work anniversary notes. The same trigger had earlier prompted me to pen down “5 Change Management Lessons Learnt from 5 Years as CEO” on my 5th anniversary. This was followed by “The Sixth Element” last year. No prizes for guessing that the theme will be “Lucky 7” this time around.

Why So Lucky 7 : A Reflection

Introspection is a very powerful tool and can yield interesting pointers, which we may otherwise tend to miss. For instance, I just realized that 7 years as CEO of Anand and Anand is the largest amount of time that I have spent in any organization till date. It might also be (one of) the longest tenure of an ‘outside’ management professional as CEO in any law firm in the country.

Cut to 7 years ago and I know many people did not believe (read ‘knew’) someone like me would not last more than couple of years in a law firm. There are lots of things going and before I get to the 7 Learning from Lucky 7, here is a quick snapshot of things that worked across 7 different dimensions:

  1. The Intelligence Stack – A whole bunch of initiatives around AI, Machine Learning (ML) and Analytics; all the way from implementing an ERP system and data farm to comprehensive analytics to cutting edge AI and Deep Learning.
  2.  Marketing & Communication – From setting up the team to re-branding (a brand associated with over 90 years’ history) and adopting a Digital Core followed by creation of DiCAP (Digital Content Analyzer and Predictor), an insightful predictive tool for content optimization.
  3.  People – From stemming attrition to becoming the “Employer of Choice” to creating the “People Profiler” tool leveraging Natural Language Processing (NLP) for talent acquisition. Six Blind Men can now become seven!
  4. Knowledge & Learning – From setting up a CLE program with integrated MOOCs to creating KnowBot by leveraging Natural Language Processing (NLP). Clearly, an autodidactual path leads to success!
  5. Client – Getting to the highest client satisfaction score in India with the help of an intelligent responsive ecosystem followed by the versatile ML based client predictor.
  6. Technology – From quirky uses such as 3D printed bots and RFID chips embedded files to becoming the only Asian firm to be recognized for leveraging technology in learning. The wide array of tools and products need garnishing, don’t they?
  7. Innovation – helping extend the firm’s legacy of creativity and innovation, punching way above our weight. Among top 3 “Business of Law” innovators across all Asian firms in last 3 years courtesy 5 projects recognized among most innovative in these categories.

Looking Ahead : 7 Things to Learn

Let’s switch focus from looking back to looking ahead. Let us discover (or speculate) how seven key elements are going to be increasingly important in the times to come. So let’s look ahead at these Lucky 7:

#1 – Intelligence

Intelligence – is here to stay. As you may guess, I have taken the Artificial out of AI, since it needs to be made Real or Applied or Augmented, whatever you may chose! Irrespective of the choice of words, it is getting more and more mainstream, or as I would like to say – we have democratAIzed it. It will become a part of day to day life….in fact, it already is! I cannot but help borrow a catchy headline from the Select Committe Report on AI in the UK, quoting John McCarthy (inventor of ‘AI’) – “As soon as it works, no one calls it AI anymore…”. So, get ready to embrace more and more of AI; less and less of which will be called AI in the future!!

#2 – Mind Your Language

Mind Your Language – as the NLP bots are being unleashed on unstructured text. The only way that we have ingested text historically is by ‘manually’ reading it followed by a digital replication of the manual process. Cognitive abilities get an extreme make-over with the rise and rise of NLP. Welcome to the wars of conversational chatbots – It is Alexa vs (or ‘and’) Cortana vs Siri vs Google Assistant. The impact on mainstream work could be profound. Methinks that we may be looking at a fundamental change in the way we communicate and absorb information.

#3 – Communication

Let us continue further on the path of text and language to media. Enter the world of even richer media with the increasing use of AR / VR / XR / MR. Augmented, Virtual, Cross and Mixed Reality to supplement ‘Real Reality’. It is a bit funny, how extremes such as Artificial in AI and Reality in xR’s tend to trend. Doesn’t this remind us of the yin and the yang. This also serves as a pointer to get the balance right. Communication (and a lot of other things) will go back to the basics. Tools will address the How To. Intelligent insights will address the What. But, we will need the innate human response to questions such as Why and What If.

#4 – People

With millennials entering the workforce, there is a sea change in the workplace dynamics. The disparity between skills and attitudes of the population has never been so high. Misguided debates that raise existential questions in the context of AI only feed fear and create mistrust. One of the challenges is to foster a positive attitude towards change among the digital laggards. At the same time, we have the millennials who are more attuned to contemporary and futuristic trends. Can we create a mutually symbiotic relationship where the young turks are respected for what they bring to the table (and not by a number denoting their age) and they are in turn able to leverage wisdom of more experienced people.

#5 – Learning

This brings us to an important pit-stop. You have to keep refuelling your knowledge tank and partake new skills to navigate the next lap. The three boxes of Creation, Destruction and Operations have to go hand in hand. With the rapid pace of change, everyone ought to be a life long learner, leading an autodidactual life

#6 – Collaborations

Whoa…that’s a lot going on! Disruptive innovations springing from everywhere, especially from people outside the traditional boundaries. More industries are being subject to ‘Uberization’. In this VUCA context, the boundaries between competitor and collaborator; customer and supplier are blurring ever so rapidly. The concept of integrated supply chains and competing value chains has clearly transcended manufacturing and made it’s play in the services and disruptive tech space. Watch out for newer models, alliances, enhanced cognitive capabilities and diversity.

#7 – The Big Picture

With all the moving parts, managing the internal and external environment can be challenging, to say the least. There are some fundamental changes at the core of what we do. And there is a lot of background noise. There is a core purpose, that explains and drives why we do what we do. Everything else loses meaning, it is only a matter of time. Get the Big Picture right as it is even better than the 80/20 rule.

Beyond Lucky 7

I will leave you with that philosophical thought. The more things change, the more they remain the same. Watch out for patterns. While the world is getting disrupted by AI, what is really happening under the hood? What happened to the world at the time of the Industrial Revolution? Who were the winners and who were the losers? Did success belong to the debaters, brooders and protesters or did it belong to those who rode the wave, the innovators, the early adopters and even the vast majority. Or in more recent times, think of the Internet Revolution and the “dot com” boom? What really went on Before, During and After?

Yesterday’s disruptive becomes tomorrow’s norm. What you are doing today is the only thing that matters.

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