Frogs, Voxels and Silicons

March 11, 2019

Another week lived at the epicenter of digital world – the Bay Area.

This time I was leading BMI senior management team in our recently crafted Blue Mission learning experience. Definitely, a memorable week for all of us enrolled in those meaningful interactions with Google, HP, IBM, Netflix, SAP, School 42 and Stanford University, as well as with keynote speakers from Facebook and Singularity University.

In fact, BMI has been researching mega trends for almost 10 years, combining sociological, technological, economical and industrial aspects. Amazingly, along time, these multiple perspectives converged to our digital competitive arena framework, mostly used for strategic consulting to Fortune500 companies. In this context, Blue Mission reinforced and enlarged important components of our framework.

As a matter of getting key point summarized, I outlined below my five key takeaways:

1 Leap Frog  beyond Ethical Boundaries

Incremental innovation is always critical to any business context and it definitely leads to increase productivity, profitability and quality. Disruptive innovation, on the other hand, aims to destroy status quo, creating a new world that turns the old into something irrelevant. Exponential innovation, beyond buzz worlds from today’s news, is merely a more intense disruptive innovation process, certainly with deeper and wider consequences for any business context. So, leap frog is a metaphor describing this disruptive movement to the unknown, further than linear steps would be able to predict as a normal innovation pathway. However, leap frogs do not necessarily commit to ethical standards already in place and, therefore, are usually controversial for liberals and conservatives at the same time. Leap frogs believe that boundaries are made to be surpassed along evolution of technology and humankind. That poses huge ethical challenges for any new technology not compliant to current establishment. Artificial intelligence and CRISPR are just new kinds on the block, both giving rise to number of different ethical questions related to what makes us humans and to what could happen when machines get smarter than humans.

2 Smart Voxels

Atoms and Bits are amazingly converging! In less than half century, transistor became microchips and pixels became voxels. Now we are seeing how atoms can also become smarter through their merge with bits. The value creation potential is immense. Let us be aware that we are now entering in the era of centaurs, in which humans and artificial intelligence will be integrated to achieve new performance standards and to also explore new possibilities to all humankind. Naturally, we should also acknowledge dystopian perspectives about what could wrongly happen with unintended consequences of technological improvements, collaboratively working to setup rules that could provide proper enforcement of technical applications.

3 Social Robots

Robots are no longer introverted code lines. They are improving social skills, building empathy as they are learning how to understand natural language and to map non-verbal communication hints. As they become better in connecting to humans, they are also increasing emotional bonding between people and machines. Social robots are moving further than operational robots designed solely to perform operational tasks. They have been improved to actual interact with humans in all sort of contexts that would require much more than simply performing operational tasks. Of course, ideally social robots would be altruists, with no cognitive biases that interfere in human judgments, although real life would be more challenging for crafting perfect robots. Some social robots are already in place in mental hospitals to support elderly care, while others are being tested with kids at schools and others are being deployed to process simple legal contests. Last year we heard about the first social robot working as a priest in Europe. Maybe, in a short period of time, we will find social robots working in different levels of management for companies, eventually with a seat at the board of directors. Before that, in detriment of dogs and cats, our next pet could be made by silicon, steel and plastic, connected to your thoughts and feelings based on their capability to process your informations available in the cloud – that might seem awkward now, but human capability to attach anthropomorphic characteristics to objects and animals has already showed us that is perfectly possible.

4 Innovative Stop

In this world of complexity and ambiguity, everyone is trying to find what would be the next great thing. There is a caveat in this simplistic reasoning, according to which there is only one path to the future or there is a silver bullet in the pistol to be shot. Failing fast through continuous interactive experimentation process seems to be cleverer than all-in approach to something specific. Increasing versatility can improve the odds of success for any venture. Once the route is clear, than the name of the game is speed, speed, speed. And to achieve such excelence in innovation deployment, we have to wisely choose what we should stop doing. This innovative stop means that we should approach our resources with a growth mindset, unlearning about old stuff that no longer is useful, breaking attachments to the way of thinking and doing, challenging common practices and reskilling people. There are no infinite resources in any company. Focus and discipline are critical to success.

5 Elop’s Rule

This the rule about what one should not ever do in the corporate world. Stephen Elop was the CEO of Nokia in 2007, when Apple launched iPhone and, after just few years, destroyed Nokia leadership position in mobile devices worldwide. Stephen eventually said that “We didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow we lost…” That’s certainly brave to publicly admit that, but also philosophical. Stephen just described how board and C-Suite executives’ rooms operate in a daily basis, managing dashboard of OKRs designed to evaluate actual business performance, but with almost no foresight about the future. I am wondering how often board members, C-Suite executives and senior managers leave a meeting room feeling that they have not done anything wrong. Given quarterly dictatorship, it is not surprising that top leaders are usually focused on.

Blue Mission was an outstanding learning experience to all of us. We challenged ourselves to keep our growth mindsets instead of fixed, to consider ethical issues before embrace all tech hype, to realize that common sense is not necessarily common practice, to always consider the merge between soft and hard aspects of organizations and to always keep unlearning. That’s how BMI can continue to play at the cutting-edge knowledge frontier applied to organizational culture, design and leadership.


Daniel Motta is the Founder and CEO of BMI Blue Management Institute, a leading niche consulting firm. He is a global thought leader focused on culture, strategy and leadership. He has a PhD in Economics, MSc in Financial Economics and BA in Economics. He is also an OPMer from Harvard Business School. He is the Managing Director of USA-based VC company White Fox Capital and the Senior Tupinambá Maverick of bossa&etc. He was a co-founder of Brazilian Society of Finance. He currently serves NGO UNIBES as Strategic Planning Principal. He is the author of the best selling books Essential Leadership and book Anthesis. He also has three articles published by Harvard Business Review. He is a Board Member of MASP.