At the Emirates Stadium, home to Arsenal Football Club, the Microsoft Business Forward event included high ranking speakers from Microsoft, and some of those they work alongside such as LinkedIn and Renault Sports. A stand out speaker was the formidable Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post, and previously the editor in chief of the title now owned by AOL.
Arianna Huffington has recently featured in the news because of the major changes at Uber, a company that she is on the board of, and was for a time the first and only woman.
Huffington focussed on the disruptive importance of augmented humanity in the future, tying in with the toxic workplace that has been so problematic at Uber.
“At the same time that we celebrate augmented reality, and all the different elements achieved, I would love us to start thinking about augmented humanity, because I feel that it is going to be a huge competitive advantage, and again most people don’t even know that they want it, but I predict that in the next couple of years, the businesses that also handle augmented humanity and have humanised their digital products are going to be the winners, and there is nothing any more amazing and disruptive than giving people something before they even know they need it.” Arianna Huffington said.
This viewpoint stands in contrast to the familiar rush to leverage cutting edge technology to make business processes faster and more resilient, and it stands as a reminder that after all, we are human beings.
“One of the obvious things is that right now we take better care of our smartphones than we take care of ourselves, I bet everybody here knows approximately how much battery remains in their smartphone, and if it goes kind of below 13% in my case I begin to get anxious,” said Huffington.
The flutter of guilty laughter from the audience was clearly indicative of the truth that Huffington has recognised and uncovered. We seldom allow ourselves to escape, switch off, and recharge ourselves.
Arianna Huffington reflected on her own battles with stress, she said: “When I actually collapsed ten years ago from burnout, and broke my cheekbone on the way down, but if you asked me that morning ‘Arianna how are you?’ I would have said fine, because I like many of us, had gotten so used to being perpetually tired; I thought that you know that’s the price of success.”
A common message in the corporate environment and spread more widely in the media encourages ceaselessly striving to chase down and achieve our goals, and to stand out as someone that can endure a great deal in securing success.
Huffington drew comparison with sporting achievement, and the physical requirements that this costs:
“Now what is exciting about this time we are living through is that all modern science proves how wrong we are, that in fact all modern science, whether it is sleep science, or neuroscience. We were talking earlier about athletes, the Seakhawks, or Kobe Bryant or Andre Iguodala from the Golden State Warriors are telling us that in order to be at the top of their game, they need to get enough sleep.” said Huffington.
She also shone a different light on the attitude that the customer must always be listened to if success is to be achieved. Huffington said:
“Henry Ford said if I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have told me ‘a faster horse’. So in the same way if you ask your customers now they might tell you they want digital technologies that make it possible for me to do things faster, but also I bet you they are increasingly realising they want something that also makes it easier for them to work smarter. Not just longer, not just faster, but smarter, and smarter has to do with our own energy system, because the human operating system is not a machine.”