Tech Leaders Share Insights on AI, Sustainability, The Future of Work, and More

In our rapidly advancing world, technology is reshaping the way we live and work at an unprecedented pace. This evolution impacts businesses of all sizes and across every industry. To stay ahead, it’s not enough to merely keep up with the latest advancements, we must also explore innovations beyond our own industry boundaries. 

This is where the power of cross-industry insights comes into play. By learning from leaders in diverse fields, businesses can unlock innovative ideas and discover unexpected applications of technology. 

Twisthink’s recent 7×7 event showcased this perfectly. Bringing together seven Grand Rapids leaders from various industries, the event fostered a unique exchange of experiences. Their tech talks explored how their businesses are leveraging technology to drive efficiency, champion sustainability, and enrich customer and employee experiences, revealing an exciting future of progress and innovation.  

Dive into the highlights from each tech talk or listen to the full audio recording below. 

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Jason Joseph
Chief Digital & Information Officer at Corewell Health

This presentation by Jason, the Chief Digital and Information Officer at Corewell Health, shared the challenges of managing a large healthcare organization.  

With over 1.3 million health plan members, imagine the intricate network they oversee – 65,000+ team members, 2,600 applications, 46,000 medical devices, and even a legacy system with over 300,000 devices! (Just the number of data centers – seven – tells you the story.) 

Jason tackled a crucial question: how to balance efficiency and innovation? He argued they shouldn’t be rivals, but rather collaborators. The key? Building an “elegant ecosystem” with standardized platforms. This allows for both smooth operations today and a springboard for future advancements through experimentation. 

This presentation shared a preview of implementing such a system, including the crucial role of standardization and the importance of focused experimentation that prioritizes scalable solutions.  

Intrigued by how Corewell Health tackles these challenges? Click here to listen to the full presentation to discover their approach to navigating this complex landscape.

 

Brad Comment
Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at The Right Place

Brad, Senior VP at The Right Place, an economic development organization in Grand Rapids, shared their 10-year strategy to establish Grand Rapids as a major tech hub in the Midwest. This plan focuses on three key areas: talent, ecosystem, and growth. 

“We need to bring more tech talent here. Our overarching goal over the next ten years is to have 20,000 more people employed in town and that cuts across all areas, in all industries.” 

For talent, they are collaborating with educational institutions to develop tech-focused programs and connect students with tech companies in the region. They are also working to raise awareness of STEM fields among younger students. 

To foster a strong tech ecosystem, they are supporting initiatives such as meetups, co-working spaces, and incubator programs. They are also working to connect established businesses with local tech companies that can provide them with the services they need. 

Additionally, The Right Place is promoting the growth of existing tech businesses in Grand Rapids. They are connecting businesses with each other, providing educational resources, and helping them find new customers. They are also working to attract new tech businesses to the region. 

Interested in learning more? Click here to listen to Brad’s 7-minute tech talk.

 

 

Beth McGough
Senior Manager of Global User Research at Yanfeng

Beth works in user research for Yanfeng, a global automotive supplier. Their company supplies parts to almost every car manufacturer in the world and increasingly focusing on technology.   

Beth shared how Yanfeng puts a strong emphasis on user research in order to understand what consumers want and need in their cars. 

“If you think that you’re going to deliver something that the end consumer finds valuable and fulfills a need in their life without talking to them about the needs in their life, you’re missing the mark.” 

Beth also shared a new type of car interior design that their company is working on. This design features multiple displays throughout the car, as well as sustainable materials like bamboo. She also explained how this new design will make the assembly process for electric vehicles more efficient. 

Beth also shared some of the features that people are looking for in future cars, such as comfortable seating for non-driving activities and panoramic displays.

Want to learn more about how user research is shaping the future of car interiors? Click here to listen to Beth’s tech talk.

 

 

Matt Inbody
VP of Global Execution Excellence at Dematic

Matt discussed the warehouse of the future and highlighted how technology can alleviate strain on companies facing a shrinking and undervalued workforce. 

The birth rate globally is dropping, making it difficult to find new employees. Warehouses are often unpleasant places to work, with extreme temperatures and physically demanding tasks. 

“The workforce is shrinking. That’s inevitable. There’s nothing we can do to necessarily stop it. But what I would like you to do is go out and be curious about what the technologies are that can help you help your customer. Understand that if you don’t do that, your competitor definitely will.” 

Matt shared ideas about using automation and software to create a more sustainable warehouse. Sustainability refers to both environmental concerns and creating a work environment that is safe, efficient, and maintains employee satisfaction. Three key areas of focus for achieving sustainability are predictability, flexibility, and maintainability. 

Matt discussed two exciting new technologies that can address these challenges:

  1. The first is the use of advanced graphic processing units (GPUs) to create digital twins of warehouses. This allows for better workflow planning and optimization.
  2. The second technology is the use of humanoid robots with collaborative training capabilities. These robots can be quickly trained by humans to perform tasks in a warehouse with high variation, unlike traditional robots that require extensive programming for a specific environment. 

To learn more about the ways these technologies are being implemented, listen to the full tech talk here.


Mike Troupos
Vice President at Foresight Management

Mike focused his tech talk on supply chain sustainability and life cycle assessments (LCA).  

He shares how many companies have made progress on reducing their direct emissions (scope one and two), but their indirect emissions (scope three), particularly from their supply chain, are often much larger. 

Mike speaks to how LCAs can help companies understand the environmental impact of a product throughout its entire lifecycle, from raw material extraction to disposal. This can help companies identify areas for improvement and develop more sustainable products. 

Mike gives the example of a stainless steel cup to illustrate how LCA works. The LCA would account for the emissions from mining the raw materials, manufacturing the cup, transporting it to stores, and eventually recycling it. 

Understanding a product’s lifecycle emissions can lead to innovation. For example, electric vehicles may have higher upfront emissions from battery manufacturing, but their lower lifetime emissions from use outweigh this. Similarly, light weighting vehicles can reduce emissions throughout their lifecycle. 

In conclusion, Mike emphasizes the importance of data and measurement in sustainability efforts. By understanding a products’ lifecycle emissions, companies can make informed decisions to reduce their environmental impact. 

Interested in learning more about how technology is impacting sustainable supply chains? Click here to listen to Mike’s tech talk.

 

Mary Brown
Senior Culture Consultant at Steelcase

Mary described Steelcase’s approach to using an AI community of practice as a strategic change management tool to encourage learning, collaboration, and capacity-building around AI. 

Mary emphasizes that soft skills, like adaptability and collaboration, are crucial for leading this change. She recommends using online communities to practice using AI, share knowledge, and build capacity. She acknowledges the fear of AI replacing jobs and emphasizes that AI should be seen as a tool for augmentation. 

“Having our employees engage in this sort of community practice is very important. So we can’t think of it [change management] as a top-down thing, but something where we provide that space and then capacity building…” 

Mary outlines a model for grassroots change management, focusing on employee awareness, building a desire to participate, and fostering collaboration across the organization. And she mentions a pilot project using AI to reduce bias in resume analysis. 

Click here to listen to Mary’s tech talk.

 

 

Bernard Ibrahim
Director of Industry at Microsoft

Bernard discussed the significant impact of Generative AI in the workplace. He highlighted two key technologies that enabled this advancement: natural language interaction and basic computer reasoning. 

Bernard emphasized that AI can empower workers to be more effective in their roles. He shared findings from early adopters who reported increased productivity and qualitative improvements in their work. People were spending less time on mundane tasks and reported feeling more engaged and fulfilled. 

Bernard concluded by noting the positive impact AI has on people’s experience at work. AI can free up time, allowing workers to focus on more strategic tasks and derive greater joy from their work.  

“People are actually qualitatively assessing that the work they’re doing with AI is higher quality than they would’ve done without AI… that in itself is quite amazing because we’re talking about a machine helping you be more creative, be more thorough, be more insightful.” 

Want to learn more about how AI is impacting the workplace? Click here to listen to Bernard’s tech talk.

 

 

 

 

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Cross-Industry Inisghts

Curious how cross-industry insights can impact your business? Twisthink's Shared Spaces program brings together business, strategy, and tech leaders from different industries to explore macro-trends impacting us all.

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