Saturday, September 30, 2023

Why There’s New Hope For The Future Of The Digital World

The old values of leadership tended to foster tribalism, competition and a ‘get out of my way’ kind of rise to the top. But a new wave of leadership is about prioritising collaboration, equity and learning – and it couldn’t come at a better time, as this new generation of leaders and creators are tasked with not only trying to make the world a better place, but shape Web3 and the digital world as well. Capsule talks to Tech Futures Lab Innovation Director Jade Tang-Taylor about the promise of a better digital world and the new leadership rules that are helping create a more equitable workspace.

Tech Futures Lab  x Capsule

One of the leadership mottos that Capsule values the most is the idea that ‘if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.’ This comes from combined decades of sitting in meetings where managers loudly debated over each other in order to prove who was the expert – truly the least creative energy possible to be faced with. Which is why it is so refreshing that the new leadership values are a world away from that – prioritising collaboration, equity and learning.

Leadership Lesson #1: Never Stop Learning

In our range of discussions with Tech Futures Lab, it’s become clear that the attitude of ‘we’re all learning together’ is prioritised – everybody has something to learn from everybody else. It’s one of the values that comes with what creative social entrepreneur Jade Tang-Taylor calls ‘21st century leadership skills’ and it’s part of the reason that Tech Futures Lab is becoming one of the most inclusive and sought-after learning institutions in Aotearoa.

“There’s always more to learn,” says Jade, who says that curiosity has stood her in good stead throughout her career. Jade has many professional roles but as Tech Futures Lab (TFL) Innovation Director, her official bio writes that like so many others from the faculty, Jade’s path to TFL was ‘squiggly’. But that squiggly path is a key reason why the available courses are designed with real-life work and life experience in mind. Your curiosity, rather than your existing skills, are your biggest asset when starting on a new career path or learning about a new world.

For Jade, that squiggly line saw her born in Malaysia, migrated to Aotearoa when she was two years old and attended a low decile school in a low socio-economic community in West Auckland. It was a scholarship to university that gave her the opportunity to study Design, which then led to a student exchange trip in Mexico. Both her own upbringing and then the far more extreme financial inequality she witnessed in Mexico instilled in Jade a strong sense of social justice, and this remains one of her core values in all of her professional pursuits.

Leadership Lesson #2: Equity Is Key For Diversity

“Often we talk about diversity and inclusion, but we forget about the equity piece,” she says. “And that’s really key in these conversations. We’re really conscious about creating that diversity of perspectives and diversity of background in our learning cohorts.”

When it comes to using technology for good, it’s crucial that there is a wide range of people at the decision-making table – otherwise the online world can be just as limited in scope as the real world. There are real-life consequences when only one type of person gets to design the digital world, so that inclusion is critical.

“The gender lens and also the equity lens is really key when it comes to designing our futures,” Jade says. “How do we create space that will enable the conditions for that – that widens inclusion and allows for better participation as well.”

It’s one of the reasons that TFL is hosting an online event on 5 October called Web3 For A Better Future, with a line-up of experts who are genuinely aiming to make the world a better place.

Not sure what ‘Web3’ is? Honestly, welcome. Luckily, Jade is great at providing the most jargon-free explanation possible. Basically, Web1 was ‘Read’: treating the internet like a brochure – “You read it but you don’t really interact with it.” Web2 was ‘Read & Write’: “There’s user-generated content and a level of interaction, like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, but unfortunately all that data is still held by the big corporates.”

“The promise of Web3 – and it’s still early days – is very much about ‘Read, write and own your content,’ so you read, you write but you also then own the data that the website contains.”

Leadership Lesson #3: Collaboration & Shared Power Is the Way Forward

So the promise of Web3 is a move away from corporates like Meta owning everything and more about shared power.

“What does it look like when, instead of big corporate owning all of the data AND all of the profit, how can [these structures] be built where they are decentralised from the start and that the resources are shared as they grow.”

As part of her role at Tech Futures Lab, Jade sits down with each Master’s student and finds out what their big picture research project plan is and how she can connect them with other people also working in that field.

“There are lots of patterns and themes amongst the students and it’s about how might you intentionally bring people together and connect them to collaborate?” Jade says. “Because I truly believe that ideas are a dime a dozen – it’s really about how well you execute on that idea and how well you bring people along the journey.”

For instance, one of the strongest themes she’s seen coming through from the current cohort is those who want to use their new-found digital skills with rangatahi in the emerging tech and mental health space, so Jade’s role is to help those different threads come together if it would benefit each project. It’s a long way from the ‘guard-my-corner-of-the-sandpit’ attitude that used to be the cornerstone of new businesses.

“That’s definitely shifted, thanks to those 21st century leadership skills. How do you not be gatekeepers of the knowledge or of those relationships, as well?” Jade says.

Leadership Lesson #4: The Discovery Phase Is Where the Magic Happens

“When there’s a challenge or an issue, people often jump straight to the solution – and our role is to encourage people to stay in that discovery phase – talk to as many people as possible, learn as much as possible, then start to distil your thinking about what could be possible and where do your strengths lie,” Jade says. “Be open to perspectives that might shift your thinking – and don’t hold too tightly to your own idea.”

This purpose-driven perspective, rather than product-driven perspective, is something that Jade sees is a particular skill of the women that choose to learn with Tech Futures Lab. “In terms of the intrinsic values that women have – and I am obviously biased – but they generally tend to be a bit more nurturing, a bit more purpose orientated and we need more of those values when it comes to shaping this future, with Web3.”

Ad for the Web# For A Better Future Tech Futures Lab event

Web3 For A Better Future is a free online event, hosted by Jade, held on 5 October from 7-8.30pm. The three panelists are:

  • Grace Clapham, Co-Founder of UNTAM3D (APAC’s largest Web3 community for women+)
  • Dan Khan, Co-Founder Positive Sum DAO (a new Web 3.0 startup support DAO, consisting of values-aligned startup founders, operators, and community enablers who help people start companies, find talent, and create shared value through collective networks and expertise.)
  • Kriv Naicker, Founder and Managing Director of Synaptec (an innovation and strategy advisory organisation for the impact of emerging and disruptive technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Edge Computing, 5G, Ai and Machine Learning, Extended Reality, Drones/ UAVs)

The conversation will look at the promise of Web3, exploring the potential to foster a more collaborative, decentralised, even more equitable internet. PLEASE REGISTER HERE »

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