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Emerging technologies: What do non-technologists need to know?

Joyce Shen  Global Director, Emerging Technologies

Joyce Shen  Global Director, Emerging Technologies

As Marc Andreessen, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, recently explained: “software is programming the world.”

It’s for this very reason that emerging technology is a topic every aspiring leader should be thinking about.

Indeed, emerging technologies are transforming, or soon will transform, every industry around the world. As someone who works at the intersection of business and emerging technologies to advance some of the most interesting and cutting edge projects, I would argue there is an increasing need for non-technologists to have a good grasp on how their industries would be impacted or transformed by emerging technologies. By doing so, they’ll be more aware of the opportunities and/or challenges associated with those transformations.

In a world in which emerging technology is one of the most fundamental elements underpinning progress and growth, it’s important for aspiring leaders to invest in learning about these technologies. Here are a few suggestions for how you can do so.

Learning about a specific emerging technology

If you want to learn about a specific emerging technology, one of the first questions you should ask is: “What does this emerging technology enable and/or transform?”

Take blockchain, or distributed ledger, for example. At its core, blockchain is a next-generation infrastructure software technology that enables two main things: (1) workflow orchestration for a network involving more than two unique parties (hence the name “distributed”) and (2) a secure, transparent, and automated system of information processing and digital recording (hence the name “ledger”).

If you remember these two things, you are on your way to thinking about meaningful blockchain-enabled use cases for your organization and industry.

Improving your general awareness of emerging technology

If you are wondering how to develop a better sense of things happening in emerging technology, sign up to receive some curated, insightful weekly newsletters. For example:

  • Work-Bench has a weekly newsletter about important developments in enterprise technology. Sign up here.
  • CBInsights has a weekly newsletter about relevant emerging tech funding.
  • TechCrunch can provide a nice and quick scroll of tech news.
  • If you are interested in personal tech, The New York Times has a good section.
  • If you are interested in technology news extending into specific business, corporate governance, and regulatory topics, Reuters provides good quick reads on its site and mobile app.

Getting involved in emerging technology

If you want to become more involved in emerging technology, but you are not sure how because you don’t know how to code, consider extending your learning by sharing your non-technology industry experience with technologists and entrepreneurs. Here are a few ideas for how to do so:

  • Attend a few relevant technology conferences to help expand your personal network in technology.
  • Identify differentiated insights or services you can bring to a startup and find an opportunity to become a mentor at a tech incubator, accelerator and/or to a startup.
  • Consider exploring investment opportunities in emerging tech startups that resonate with you.

By working together in these ways, technologists and non-technologists alike will help us along on our journey to leveraging emerging technologies to transform the world we live in.

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