Thought leaders are experts in particular fields, be it education, technology, health and medicine, or, most commonly, business. But they are experts of a very specific find. Thought leaders are known for their innovative ways of thinking, their creativity and their ability to gauge the direction in which an industry is most likely to proceed in the future. Their leadership qualities are manifested in their ability to accumulate, over time, a dedicated number of followers, either in the form of people working immediately under them, or those who have a contribution to make in that particular industry. Thought leaders are trendsetters in that sense. Their ideas become the models of growth and success.
In 2014, when Jonathan Rochelle, who was the head of Google’s education apps group, together with product manager Zach Yeskel, launched the Google Classroom app, little did the two know that the product they had designed was going to be an indispensable tool for many in a few years’ time. Rochelle and Yeskel had not the faintest idea that a global pandemic was going to change drastically the mode of education in the year 2020. All they wanted to accomplish with their app was to help teachers manage their duties more efficiently and conveniently. As we know, not only did this noble objective of theirs succeed enormously, but on top of that, Google Classroom has become the go-to app for conducting online classes during these trying times. We must remember that it is because of the farsightedness of thought leaders like Rochelle and Yeskel that Google continues to be the giant technology company it is. Sure, the two did not predict that a pandemic would hit the world like a storm and bring the global economy to its knees, but they did envision the potential growth of online education in the future.
This is an example of a product that has benefited the education industry the most. But thought leaders are known for the multi-faceted nature of their ideas, ideas which can traverse across industries and influence them all in varying degrees. What Rochelle and Yeskel created did not strengthen the education sector alone. It also helped the company that they work for, i.e. Google, become more technologically advanced and more powerful than other similar companies, thus becoming more renowned in the business industry as well.
The characteristics that make good thought leaders always remain the same. They must all possess an originality of mind, a sharpness of intellect, and acute observation skills that enable them to feel the pulse of any industry, understand its trends and patterns, and predict where its chances of development and prosperity lie. But if all thought leaders have the same attributes, then what makes the thought leaders of tomorrow any different? The difference, it must be understood, lies not in the qualities they possess, but in the industrial needs of the future that they must have an idea of beforehand. It is according to the requirements and scope of particular sectors that future thought leaders must cultivate their creativity and streamline their ideas.
Following are some of the major areas where future thought leaders are exploring themselves in, with the aim of either adapting and redefining existing industrial inputs, or introducing concepts and ideas that were lacking before:
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence, also known as machine intelligence, refers to the logical thinking and problem-solving abilities exhibited by machines when programmed in such a manner. With big data being used in almost every industry today, AI is required to interpret large volumes of data in as little time as possible. For example, AI tools in hospitals are used to read hundreds of doctor prescriptions, thus reducing clinic time and shortening patient queues. E-commerce companies like Amazon and Flipkart use AI to personalise customers’ individual preferences. Even in banking, AI systems are used to determine the authenticity of transactions, calculate accurate credit scores, etc. Thought leaders of the future must devise methods that successfully utilise the advantages of AI without comprising the manual workforce in industries. Continuity of employment opportunities along with the inclusion of AI must be the goal.
Intellectual Property (IP)
Thought leaders in the business world must understand that IP is currently facing a number of threats, against which it must be protected. Although essentially in the form of intangible, unquantifiable assets, IP influences greatly the reputation of a company. With increasing globalisation and the adoption of open source software technology, intellectual property credits are liable to be unacknowledged, or worse, hijacked. Thought leaders must encourage multinational companies to centralise IP rights when they look to expand their businesses. Expansion without consolidation would be of no avail.
What do thought leaders in the transportation industry need to think about? The future of automobiles must necessarily be more energy-efficient. Significant progress has already been made in this sector. Vehicles with autonomous driving facilities using AI, cars fuelled by electricity and solar power, etc. are being developed right now. But what thought leaders need to do is to think of revolutionising public transport. Usually, advanced automobile technology restricts itself to financially powerful companies like Mercedes, BMW, or Lexus. But thought leaders of the morrow must think of ways to bring futuristic technology to the common people. Advancement with accessibility should be the larger social objective.
The Workforce of Tomorrow
As the ongoing pandemic has shown, working from home is rapidly evolving from an alternative to a necessity. Thought leaders must make organisations see that a digital future awaits the employment industry. They must ensure that the digital revolution does not turn into a mass unemployment disaster like the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries did. As the nature of jobs undergoes a sea change, education and training must also be remodelled in order to prepare prospective employees to equip themselves to survive, and thrive, in the digital age. It is the duty of the thought leaders of tomorrow to show that the future does not jeopardise job opportunities but paves the way for newer and better career prospects.