“The world is changing faster than ever.” With this categorical phrase, Catherine Barba, Internet pioneer, entrepreneur and angel investor, talks about the world in which we find ourselves, a world that, in her opinion, “is in rupture or breaking down”.
In her opinion, the changes we are experiencing today force us to better understand the world around us to make the right decisions. The most traditional companies have to be aware that “all current revolutions can be represented in exponential curves,” she points out. And that is why within these organizations you need leaders and professionals who are able to adapt to new environments, to a new way of thinking, or a change in mentality. “We are used to thinking linearly and we can no longer do that,” says Barba.
Barba radiates enthusiasm describing the world we live in. “Today all technological innovations are possible: we can build houses in three hours thanks to 3D printing or we have autonomous cars,” she says. But, in addition, what is more important and historical is that at present several revolutions overlapping at the same time: artificial intelligence and robotics… There are so many changes at happening the same time and this makes it difficult, according to some comments, to be able to anticipate or predict the world of the future. Barba exemplifies this situation alluding to the incontestable fact that today companies with such great economic values did not exist ten years ago. In other words, they are companies that have not seen this exponential evolution, which were born with digital DNA.
Barba, also a member of the Renault Council, is very reluctant to talk about digital transformation. She is convinced that the adjective “digital” does not contribute anything. It does not make sense because we are facing processes of cultural and organizational changes in companies. Technology is a “driver,” it is a tool, but what is really relevant is the transformation of mentality that human teams have to develop, the leaders of these companies.
Referring to the challenges in the field of organizational transformation, Catherine Barba believes that one of the biggest challenges these companies will have is being able to attract talent, but not only capturing it, but more importantly retaining it. And look at the explanation in a crucial aspect: young people today want to work on their own or in companies such as Google or Facebook. It is increasingly difficult for traditional companies to attract this group. For this reason, that they have to adapt to new circumstances and the new language spoken by this current generation. This is where, in her opinion, the process of cultural transformation is embedded.
But, it goes much further in terms of challenges. For this entrepreneur, “thinking about the future” is key. “You can not think about today’s business, you have to think about tomorrow, about what the business will look like in the future,” she insists.
The formation of teams is key
Her journey through the United States for four years has served Barba to see that the so-called country of opportunities is not as advanced as it seems. Entrepreneurship in the United States is located in very specific places, according to reports. In recent years, she says “I have seen few companies that are prepared to face the process” of transformation, among other factors because the CEOs or company management do not have the necessary vision to lead it. This is a fundamental element for the cultural and organizational transformation of a company to come to fruition. As it is also fundamental to have a diverse board of directors. Diversity, not only of gender, is a central point to develop the sensitivity that will help face the necessary changes.
And another very important element is collaboration with the startup ecosystem. According to Barba, it is not only about talking to them, but about exchanging experiences and ideas, trying to take advantage of the best that these projects can offer and arriving later to enage with and invest in those companies.
Likewise, in order for a successful transformation process, the formation of the teams is essential. A training that, in the opinion of the investor, should focus on three pillars: digital culture, specifically focusing on new business models that are appearing in the market, the current meaning of the client (who is not only the person who buys a product or service) and entrepreneurial spirit.
Concluding our conversation, Barba emphasizes on the need to incorporate failure as an essential factor for any company or entrepreneur to advance and improve. Failure is not bad. It is quite the opposite. And it is something that has been incorporated into the process of change. A similar instance occurs with two values that are sometimes forgotten: humility and authenticity.
Directora of Digital Communication at Proa Comunicación