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Yes! AI is a big opportunity, but the single biggest is combinatorial innovation

Many top executives believe AI represents one of the biggest opportunities for their businesses, whether it's enabling efficiency or reducing costs. However, achieving success in the 'industry 4.0' requires more than just progress in AI; it demands a strategic approach to combinatorial innovation.

The convergence of deep tech fields and the imperative of transitioning towards sustainable practices present both complexities and avenues for growth. To succeed in this environment, leaders must navigate these intricacies adeptly, fostering innovation while addressing critical objectives of green tech such as data science, robotics, biosolutions, and AI.

The human factor in a tech-powered world

Over the past several months, I've observed firsthand the challenges faced by companies’ entities in adapting to this new paradigm. In one instance, a multimillion-euro corporate transformation project was abruptly canceled following the appointment of a new C-suite executive, underscoring the volatile nature of corporate decision-making.

Ps. The multimillion-program is now being kickstarted again under a new program name, new teams, and new budgets - but with the same aim. It's a corporate game!

In another global corporation, I encountered one project involving three different consultant companies working on the same objectives in a situation where the customer has lost sight of their direction, each consulting company with its own agenda to conquer the consulting world and lacking a cohesive understanding of a bigger purpose or overarching goals. Who said: "customer first"? Sometimes, it's all about the hours in consulting!

Similarly, digital investment projects have been stalled due to internal political conflicts, hindering progress and innovation. I'm sure you, or someone you know, encountered similar challenges with digital transformation programs being hindered by the human factor.

These experiences highlight the pitfalls of organisational inertia and the detrimental impact it can have on innovation initiatives. Could this be one of the biggest reasons why technology investments and innovation fails?

Find strong combinations of technologies, trends and innovation for your business

While advancements in AI offer promise in streamlining processes and decision-making, they cannot fully address the underlying human dynamics at play within organizations. Combinatorial innovation requires a deep understanding of internal resources, effective communication, and a willingness to confront political tensions and project challenges head-on. Simply throwing technology at complex problems without addressing the human element is unlikely to yield sustainable solutions.


To navigate the complex landscape of today's economy and connect the dots effectively, organizations must ask strategic questions that address both technological advancements and human dynamics:

1️⃣ How can we foster a stronger culture of collaboration across departments?

2️⃣ What steps can we take to align technological investments with sustainability goals?

3️⃣ Are our organizational structures conducive to agility and adaptability in the face of change?

4️⃣ How can we empower employees to acquire the necessary skills to thrive in a digital environment?

5️⃣ What mechanisms are in place to address our internal conflicts and political tensions (ex. across our IT department and business department) that may impede progress?

6️⃣ How can we ensure that our digital transformation initiatives are aligned with overarching business objectives?

7️⃣ Are we leveraging data science and AI to drive informed decision-making and strategic planning?

8️⃣ Are we actively seeking out opportunities for partnership and collaboration with external stakeholders and deep tech startups to drive innovation?


By addressing these questions and embracing a holistic approach to skill-building, integration, and organizational design, businesses can position themselves to thrive in the dynamic landscape of today's economy. Success lies not only in technological advancement but in the ability to harness the collective of human capital and foster a culture of collaboration.


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