How does the world of technology link to the changing consumer behaviours? How will the current pandemic influence the role of technology in people’s lives?
Julian Birkinshaw, Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and Deputy Dean at London Business School, led a panel conversation with Arthur Bingfeng Wang, General Manager of VMWare China, Chenyang Xu, Co-Founder of Silicon Valley Future Academy, and Dickie Liang-Hong Ke, Sloan Fellow’14, to discuss the current technological trends and implications in enabling a future lifestyle at London Business School China Business Forum 2020.
- Technology not only adds convenience to our lives during the normal time, but also adapts capability of the society in the crisis
- Many social habits like online meetings and learnings, once formed, will continue to stay post the pandemic
- Technology is neutral, but it is very important to ensure we use technology in the good way
- We do need experts with business background in the tech industry, because the world is changing, and we need people to innovate the management concepts and methodologies, especially in the time of crisis
- This is not the first time we have technology revolutions and replacing jobs. Everytime a job is replaced, a new job gets created
The pandemic is a trigger, an accelerator, and a test for technology adoption
More and more people are forced into the online lifestyle during the pandemic. This led to disruptions in work and life. Arthur first responded that the pandemic is a trigger for more agility and a test for companies to know if they are ready for uncertainties. He also emphasized the importance of a solid digital foundation in medical systems, transportations, educations, etc. Moreover, Arthur believed the pandemic is an accelerator for technology adoption. Chenyang agreed with Arthur’s points, mentioning that Zoom skyrocketed to 300 million DAU in three months amid the pandemic, while WeChat spent two years to go from 10 million to 300 million DAU a few years before.
Technology is a double edges sword
Seeing the prevalence of online meetings, Julian wondered if there would be concerns on this new lifestyle. Arthur raised the long-lasting challenge around data protection and cyber security, pointing out the urgency of resolutions. Both Chenyang and Dickie approached this question from a more humane angle, mentioning the blurrier line between work and life when everything is remote. Overall, the society hasn’t learned the new way well and mental health consequences are hard to predict.
Europe, China, and the U.S. need to collaborate to create a golden decade for technology
China benefited a lot from its new infrastructure initiative. As Chenyang concluded, China is no longer a copycat in technology. It progresses much faster than Silicon Valley, especially in applied tech. However, China is weak in fundamental research, lagging behind Europe and the U.S. Europe is not leading the technology innovations due to the lack of commercialisations, as observed by Julian. If the three regions can collaborate and compensate each other, it will be a golden decade for technology innovations.
The world of technology thirsts for a more diverse talent pool
Traditionally, most talents recruited by tech companies were people with computer science background. Nowadays, coding is no longer a requirement to break into tech. As Dickie concluded, tech conglomerates like FAANG and BAT need business students in areas like business development, strategy, and investing. Arthur strongly echoed with Dickie’s points based on his personal experience. Moreover, the current technology revolution raised concerns on job replacements. Chenyang disagreed with the concerns by stating that job losses have often been compensated by new job creations as happened in the historical technology revolutions.
Yan Hou (MBA2021) is the Co-Chair of the China Business Forum 2020 at London Business School. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she co-led the movement of the forum to an online format, expanding the forum’s international influence. She is an MBA Senior Career Representative and former Consulting Club ExCo member. Yan is an intern for the Wheeler Institute, contributing to the creation of content that amplifies the role of business in improving lives.