(This article written by Scott Nelson was posted on the MonitorDaily.com on June 7, 2024)

Inspired by the innovative insights of Converge 2024’s keynote speaker Peter Hinssen, Scott Nelson, a self-proclaimed technologist, outlines key technology takeaways from the conference—from data becoming knowledge to the intergenerational conflict that emerges from new technologies.

Monitor’s Converge conference is built for people like me. Converge has a multi-faceted focus on how organizations intertwine business strategy, productivity and technology. It is built for enthusiasts looking to learn about and share their experiences with these topics.

I have always been a “technologist” — someone who wants to know how things work and who loves understanding how technology changes people’s lives. In my case, I have also developed an obsession with how I can use technology to build things that help people with their endeavors.

Such was the focus of Converge 2024 keynote speaker Peter Hinssen, author of “The Phoenix and the Unicorn” and creator of the “never normal” construct of business, technology and lifestyles. Hinssen thoroughly challenged and energized all Converge attendees with his insights into how technology has and is changing our lives faster than ever before. His “never normal” messages challenged our thinking and precipitated enthusiastic discussions on how our professional and personal lives are changing due to technology, particularly AI.

Hinssen’s observations and insights both reinforced and expanded upon my personal experiences with AI. He reminded the audience that most of us have lived through three of the greatest technology disruptions ever: the World Wide Web (Internet), the iPhone and the Cloud. We are now in the midst of the next great transformation — artificial intelligence. Hinssen highlighted new challenges that many of us believe all generations are going to confront with AI, even those who have grown up with the Internet, the iPhone and the Cloud.

We began to worry about how we will be able to trust anything we see on screen after Hinssen’s presentation of AI-generated visuals. A few images showed the Pope in a designer, white puffer jacket, and a video portrayed a dog jumping from one windowsill to another in a way that we all could recognize as cat-like. Breakfasts and networking sessions were dominated not so much by typical discussions of interest rates and inflation as by the effects AI technology will have on both our businesses and families.

I enjoyed these philosophical discussions and I encourage equipment finance professionals to search out Hinssen’s book to learn more. But, as I said, I am a technologist, and I’m looking for ways to leverage AI for new and better solutions. So here are five “tech takeaways” from my Converge 2024 experience.

Data Becomes Information; Information Becomes Knowledge

The digital transformation is behind us. AI is now about cognitive transformation—moving from digital models to cognitive models, learning models and automating the acquisition of knowledge. Hinssen described cognitive transformation as moving from data to information and from information to knowledge. His advice for those hoping to understand the impact of AI was to make this transformation the focus of every business, every industry and every workflow. AI will create ideas and make decisions quickly and easily. Knowledge, and the increase thereof, must be the primary objective of every business.

Technology Always Creates Intergenerational Conflict

The Baby Boomers have lived through the first three of Hinssen’s greatest technology disruptions: the Internet, the iPhone and the Cloud. We all hope to live through the fourth, artificial intelligence, and with the speed at which AI is moving, that’s very possible for most of us. But Gen Z doesn’t know or care about our stories of growing up without email or text messages. These are just new versions of “walking to school in the snow barefoot and uphill.” Hinssen described how he shared one of his presentations with his daughter to use at her school. He was dismayed that she threw away 60% of his slides because they were “too old and unimportant.” (I was particularly fond of Hinssen’s vintage vignette of a typist throwing a PC off the desk trying to do a manual carriage return, but apparently that vignette didn’t make it to the school presentation of AI.)

Companies that want to thrive with AI need the new generation’s experience and familiarity with the first three disruptions if they are going to take advantage of the fourth. More importantly, these companies will need to build new solutions for the next generation of business leaders.

Numerous leaders at Converge discussed how equipment finance as an industry, and their companies specifically, have struggled to bring in new talent because of a widespread belief that they have to hire those already experienced with equipment finance. Success with AI means relaxing this requirement. Employers will need to pursue external talent, reaching beyond the industry and the present generation of leaders. The next generation of customers doesn’t care about iPhone stories and won’t buy products that require keystrokes.

Platforms are Business Models

Two of the more overused and underdefined words in technology are “platform” and “ecosystem.” In equipment finance, I hear the word platform applied to software stacks that have more than one application or address more than one part of the business workflow. But rarely do these “platforms” change the way the businesses work or go-to-market in a different way. These platforms may integrate parts of a technology ecosystem (e.g., Salesforce) or even be a customer of a true platform (e.g., Microsoft Azure), but they are not yet transforming the way they or their customers do business. True platforms do not solve problems of the past; they build innovation centers that rapidly transform to emerging needs and new customers.

Hinssen spoke loudly to both the finance companies and service providers in the audience during this part of his “never normal” story.

“Big, Dumb Pipes” Don’t Solve Mysteries

One of my favorite Hinssen anecdotes is “big, dumb pipes.” This commercialization of technology epitomizes the mistakes of focusing on simple problem solving and not anticipating the needs of the future. Hinssen’s terms for these two challenges are “solving mysteries vs. solving problems” and spending too much time worrying about the past and present instead of “the day after tomorrow.” The audience was particularly fond of his S.O.Y acronym during this teaching — the “sh*t of yesterday.” Many professed to spending too much time on S.O.Y in their business operations.

Hinssen’s best example of “big, dumb pipes” is, in my opinion, the way the telcos, including the wireless network operators, all missed out on the value-add of apps and content running through their “pipes.” Their value as communication networks was commoditized by the explosion of new uses and content that platform companies like Facebook, Google and Apple delivered to consumers. These platform companies had both the curiosity about consumer needs and the agility to develop new alternatives to meet demands. They innovated while the “dumb pipes” lived in their comfort zones of delivering more bytes over a wider area at lower and lower margins.

Hinssen challenged the Converge audience to think about their role in the equipment finance marketplace. Were they living in a comfort zone of traditional funding streams moving through traditional channels? Is anyone building a new platform, in Hinssen’s definition, that will provide an ongoing stream of new, innovative solutions to meet the changing needs of customers? Does anyone have a business platform that is already using AI to learn and adapt faster?

Who is thinking about being a leader in preparing for the “day after tomorrow?”
We heard from volunteers claiming to be comfortable being a “big pipe” and others claiming to have platforms ready to take on new challenges. I did not hear the latter describe the technology architectures necessary to affect a true platform, and I suspect that the former will prosper for a while as innovators try to find their place and scale.

We are Living the “Never Normal”

As Hinssen told us, technology has created a world where “normal” no longer exists for very long. We must all prepare ourselves, our organizations, our businesses and our technology infrastructure for whatever comes next. We must strive to be a Phoenix.

Author’s note:
I want to thank Lisa Rafter and her Monitor team, as well as Deb Reuben and her TomorrowZone team, for arranging and facilitating such a great forum for technology and innovation discussions. The experience was so rich for me, I have struggled to adequately share my insights and learning with other team members, but hopefully these five tech takeaways will help those who could not attend share a few of the benefits of the event.

Written by

Scott Nelson

President & Chief Technology Officer, Board Member

Scott Nelson is the president and chief technology officer of Tamarack Technology. He has more than 30 years of strategic technology development, deployment and design thinking experience working with both entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies. Nelson is a sought-after speaker and contributor on topics related to IoT and digital health. His involvement in technology in the local and national technology community reflects an ongoing and outstanding commitment to technology development and innovation.


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