Many seem to agree that meetings and events are becoming increasingly important today. But exactly why are they becoming more important? Our gut feeling goes a long way to answer the question, but if we want to make the right decisions in a world that is changing at an accelerating pace, it may be good to understand the causes.
And the best way to get this understanding is to look at the big picture. That is my experience after many years of analyzing how technology changes our lives and our society.
Let’s start with digitalization, which is arguably the strongest driving force of change in our time. Everyone talks about it, yet it remains vague to many people.
The easiest way to understand digitalization is to look at other major technology shifts such as the wheel, the printing press, the steam engine and electricity. They all created previously unknown opportunities, which led to new ways of working, new business models and a changed everyday life. We simply adapted.
What makes digitalization special is that this technology shift alone creates so many new opportunities compared to previous major technology shifts. With digital technology, we’re not only able to manage and communicate information very efficiently, we can also copy everything that is digital at almost no cost. In addition, we can spread it to the world with one click, and to top it all, we do it from pocket to pocket!
This leads to a number of megatrends that everyone notices, although many might not reflect on how these trends form.
One example is the increased focus on customer experience, arising from the fact that the whole world is competing for your attention. As a result, we have raised the bar for what we regard as a high-quality service or product. Consequently, more effort than ever is needed in order to keep the customer’s attention and to offer something that is attractive.
Another example is the trend of purpose—that profitability is no longer enough to run a successful company. This trend is influence by that fact that it has become increasingly possible for individuals to make a difference globally—with a good idea, a little code and a few servers on the internet. A couple of decades ago this was almost unthinkable. And if we canmake a difference, then of course we want to.
There are many other examples—I usually talk about the 13 different faces of digitalization which together are driving a powerful change in our society and in our lives.
Everyone talks about AI
Added to this is artificial intelligence, AI, which everyone talks about too, but which might seem even more vague than digitalisation, and perhaps also a bit threatening.
The truth is that AI has made impressive progress in recent years, but that the technology is still nowhere near a human-like consciousness in a machine. Today’s AI systems are above all impressively good at learning and recognizing patterns in all forms, including complex patterns such as behavioral patterns.
However, in contrast to humans, AI has no understanding of cause and effect. For example, an AI system may be able to accurately assess the risk of rain based on the appearance of the clouds, but it has no idea that the rain is coming from the clouds.
In practice, AI is therefore good at predicting things, and at performing all kinds of routine tasks—not just manual work but also mental, within areas ranging from administration to research, but only in narrow niches.
Can AI take my job?
So, will AI steal your job? Not really. Rather, AI allows us to automate a variety of tasks that many people perceive as boring and time consuming. We’re getting a digital colleague that provides effective help in our work, meaning that we humans can focus on what AI is still very bad at doing. Mainly, this is about four areas:
- creativity of all kinds
- the ability to motivate and convince others
- empathy and compassion
- ability to see context and opportunities for collaboration.
Would you say that any of these aspects possibly relate to meetings with human people?
If we add the powerful development driven by the 13 faces of digitalization, it is clear that we find ourselves in a changing world where people are needed more than ever—to be creative about how we can adapt and seize new opportunities, and to focus on everything typically human that AI can’t do for us.
Develop human aspects
Meetings with people are then essential. That is where we learn from each other and exchange ideas. It’s where we develop our human aspects in relation to each other. And it’s where we shape the role of humans in a digitalized world.
Certainly, digitalization can make meetings better—helping us to share information more efficiently, letting people collaborate better with digital tools, managing administration in a more automated way, extending communication before and after the meeting, etc. In short, there are plenty of digital opportunities.
But what’s fundamental—in all industries—is not to be seduced by the possibilities of technology, throwing out the baby out with the bathwater. Or in other words, to forget all human experience and skills that sometimes express themselves as a gut feeling.
When it comes to meetings and events, such skills are absolutely essential. As you can see, the gut feeling is right—there are a number of reasons why meetings and events are more important than ever.
And in case anyone would be wondering, you can say you heard it from a digitization expert—who would love to tell you more.