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Q&A with Ted Souder

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Ted Souder, Speaker, Advisor, Board Director and Professor

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

I've had the privilege of shaping and witnessing digital transformation in business for over two decades. As one of Google’s earliest employees, I contributed to this incredible journey in both Chicago and Paris, ultimately serving as the Head of Industry, Retail, and founding the Google CFO Forum. My roles have always been at the intersection of technology and business impact, something I continue to pursue passionately.

In addition to my work at Google, I've held the position of Vice-Chair at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, one of America's oldest and most significant chambers. I'm currently a part-owner of the Monthly Barometer, a boutique advisory based in Chamonix, France, that provides macro analysis and global community gatherings centered around economics, geopolitics, environment, technology, and society.

I also sit on the boards of 1871, a globally recognized tech incubator, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a leading geo-political think tank. These roles keep me at the forefront of innovation and global trends.

When I engage with audiences around the globe, it's with the aim to propel businesses, governments, and non-profits into a future abundant with opportunities. Whether I'm delivering a keynote to over a thousand people or facilitating a focused workshop for local entrepreneurs, my message is clear: be inspired and leave with a game plan for succeeding in our digital-first world.

Drawing from your expertise, could you illuminate the most impactful digital innovation trends of 2023 that are shaping our world, complete with standout examples that encapsulate their significance?

The most obvious movement at the moment is the public adoption of powerful AI tools such as ChatGPT and Google Bard. AI itself has been around for 50+ years, but it was always hidden in the background of other tools we use, such as Search or Gmail. Now that AI has been pulled to the forefront as a creative and productivity tool, adoption has been swift. For example, ChatGPT currently has well over 100 Million users, which is astounding by any measure. Within 5 days of launching, ChatGPT gained over 1 Million users, which made it the second fastest-growing product in history, after Threads, which reached 1 Million users in an hour. There is a lot of concern over the impact AI will have on the world, and some of it is warranted. Personally, I believe AI is going to help level the playing field by giving solopreneurs and small business owners the same computing power and opportunity as those with high-paying, white-collar jobs in business capitals around the globe, like Chicago, Paris, and Singapore. It will unleash productivity that will enable workers to do more with less and to have more impact. It will create entirely new industries because of just the sheer power, adoption, and impact. Think about the industries and jobs that were created with the advent of the automobile. It will be like that but on steroids.

AI will prove to be the most important invention in human history, but people must be patient as it will take time to show its true potential. Ideas will come and go; there will be failures and successes that will inform the next waves of adoption. There will also be nefarious actors who will train custom AIs to do bad things, and even that will spur new jobs and industries so we can combat that.

Why is AI an immediate strategic imperative, rather than a future consideration, for staying competitive in today's market?

AI is not a luxury or a future investment; it's a current necessity that defines your competitive edge today. In an environment where speed, efficiency, and innovation are not just valued but expected, delaying AI integration is akin to leaving money and opportunities on the table. Take a tool like ChatGPT. It can instantly streamline customer service or increase content creation, offering immediate ROI.

For C-level executives, the message is clear: Lead your teams in AI adoption now to stay relevant. Even simple AI applications can produce measurable benefits that resonate across your organization. And this isn't restricted to tech giants. Businesses of all sizes must act. If you're not making this a strategic priority, you're effectively choosing to fall behind.

In the breakneck pace of today's market, falling behind isn't just a setback—it's a death sentence for your business's relevancy and sustainability. The imperative is now, and the cost of inaction is steep. Don't relegate AI to future strategies; make it your present reality. It's not just a 'nice-to-have,' it's a 'must-have.' Act now or risk obsolescence.

What should our readers do next to start down the digital transformation path?

Here are five things your readers can do literally starting today to have an impact on their future:

  1. Understand that Digital Transformation is in your future. If there is one thing the pandemic showed us, it is that having a digital platform in which to engage with your stakeholders is Business 101.

  2. Meet with your employees to understand where friction lies in the system. What digital solutions will help them be more efficient and effective?

  3. Survey your customers to understand their needs and to see how digital solutions can help you meet those needs.

  4. Recognize that you don’t have to do this alone. To start, visit your local tech hub or incubator to understand what products and platforms are being built that will help you reach your goals. 

  5. Write a new three-year business plan that takes all of this into account. Frankly, any business plan that was written before March of 2020 is outdated.

Start here, and I promise you that impact and opportunity will present itself

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