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Key digital innovation trends for 2023, Q&A with Enrique Dans

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Enrique Dans, Professor @IE Business School

How could you describe your career path in a few words?

I am a professor who initially studied for a B.Sc. in Biology but ran into computers very early on in the '80s. Subsequently, I obtained an MBA from IE University and was poised to seek employment. However, my own university recognized my ability to teach computing without coming across as 'intimidating' (keep in mind that I wasn't a computer engineer or anything of the sort). As a result, they offered me a teaching position. I later made the decision to pursue a Ph.D. in Information Systems. I journeyed to sunny California, to UCLA, at the peak of the internet boom. This allowed me to undergo an incredible crash course on the subject. Upon returning to Spain, I found that newspapers, magazines, and media outlets were interested in my insights on the internet, technology, and their impacts. Consequently, I began to integrate my research with more and more involvement in these platforms. Eventually, this led to my own webpage. In an effort to remain current and provide dynamic instruction on innovation to my MBA students, I started writing daily. This compelled me to stay updated and enabled me to incorporate real-time cases into my teaching. Over the past 33 years, I have been engaged in teaching, consistently striving to design my courses not only for educational purposes but also to captivate students. I am still as passionate about my profession as ever!

What are the highlights of the key digital innovation trends for 2022? Can you give us some major examples?

Last year, most people were discussing the evolution of the internet toward three-dimensional immersive environments, the so-called metaverse, as well as the application of blockchain beyond cryptocurrencies, encompassing practically everything. The notion of a decentralized internet, liberated from the grip of large corporations that had effectively 'owned' almost every aspect — including our personal information — and from business models where users were essentially 'raw material' destined for advertisers, was a topic of extensive conversation.

However, the metaverse encountered a significant challenge: the initial ambitious implementation was undertaken by a company, Facebook, later rebranded as Meta, that attempted to monopolize the concept and transform it into a proprietary platform, where they could dictate the rules. This abrupt maneuver brought the metaverse to a screeching halt and convinced everyone that it would only materialize as a reality when an array of open-source protocols is developed, available for everyone's use without requiring permission from any company or entity, as it happened earlier with the internet. Later on, Sam Altman and OpenAI entered the picture, releasing generative algorithms like DALL·E and ChatGPT, and succeeded in transforming this into a massive viral phenomenon, capturing everyone’s eyes and altering the entire landscape…

Based on your experiences, what are the impactful trends in digital innovation that are becoming more important in the context of 2023?

In 2023, the AI revolution dominates every aspect. OpenAI led the charge in utilizing machine learning algorithms, but following to the dynamics of Silicon Valley. Their substantial rounds of financing propelled them far beyond the boundaries of the field. The initial generative algorithms were introduced as a means to enhance the productivity of white-collar workers, enabling companies to achieve greater output with fewer resources. Currently, we stand on the precipice of integrating these algorithms into autonomous robots, poised to supplement blue-collar jobs as well. This transformative shift is reshaping the landscape and, in the long run, fundamentally altering the concept of work. This year will be etched in memory as 'the year when AI took center stage,' despite AI having been in development for the past 50 or 60 years. Nonetheless, certain trends, including the redefinition of currency through blockchain —particularly in relation to the concept of establishing monetary systems that facilitate the implementation of unconditional basic income (UBI)— retain tremendous relevance. Perhaps now more than ever, these trends will occupy a significant place on the technology agenda. Coupled with the vision of a post-capitalist world wherein we grapple with humanity's most extensive technological transition — the shift from fossil fuels to renewable electricity — we find ourselves in an exceedingly challenging environment.

In your opinion, how can they create high value for organizations?

Organizations must now undergo a comprehensive reevaluation. They need to strategize how to contribute value to society while simultaneously maintaining competitiveness by substituting tasks with algorithms wherever possible. Why? Primarily because algorithms can perform tasks faster, more effectively, and with significantly fewer errors. Companies will find themselves at the crossroads of determining when to leverage third-party algorithms and when to develop their proprietary ones, rooted in their own data derived from internal processes. This will give rise to substantial advancements in this realm, accompanied by a Darwinian transformation as companies grapple with this endeavor. Furthermore, as the world deals with the repercussions of disregarding the climate crisis for an extended period, companies will need to transcend mere greenwashing. They must genuinely decarbonize their operations to an extraordinary extent if they wish to align themselves with the right side of history and maintain favor in the eyes of consumers. This process will engender vast opportunities while also delineating those who succeed from those who fail. As technology continually generates more avenues for efficiency and sustainability, winners and losers will inevitably emerge. The climate emergency stands as the paramount threat to human civilization, yet it also represents an immense opportunity for technology and technologists to substantiate their true worth.

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