Leadership in a Time of Transformation

Think Melbourne 2020

The speed at which automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and a host of other global factors are bringing change dominated a very lively live panel discussion at the Melbourne stop on the 2020 Think. tour on 2 March.

More than 80 guests gathered to dine on a Neil Perry-created menu at Alfred Place restaurant and hear three industry leaders reveal very personal stories of how they approach leadership in times of uncertainty.

Kirsten Galliott, editor-in-chief of Qantas magazine and Travel Insider, led the panel discussion between Dr Catriona Wallace, founder and CEO of AI fintech Flamingo AI; Tony Johnson, EY Oceania CEO; and Mehrdad Baghai, chairman of boutique advisory firm Alchemy Growth.

“We’ve now entered what’s called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, powered predominantly by the coming of artificial intelligence,” explained Wallace. “AI is software that mimics human intelligence and it’s been around for 70 years, finding its place in the past five years because of growing computational power and big data. It’s going to change everything, not just at work but also at home, how we live, our health, our bodies – everything.”

EY’s Johnson echoed the thoughts of many when he said “the volatility and the uncertainty” is beyond anything he’s experienced in his 32 years at EY. It’s requiring leaders to make rapid decisions to deal with the constantly changing landscape, the kind of big calls that “20 years ago you may have made one of a year – there are more and more of those decisions and they’re required to be made faster”. All the same, he’s embracing it. “If you allow the uncertainty and the ambiguity to get to you, it will paralyse you.”

Baghai, who’s worked around the world advising leaders of big organisations, seconded that. “When you’re the CEO of a large corporate, uncertainty can kill your business,” he said. “It’s risk on one side, it’s opportunity on the other and for many organisations it’s both. If you’re a large company, how do you figure out whether your core business is going to hit a wall and die, and how quickly do you need to build something else in its place? An entrepreneurial skill set becomes really helpful.”

That’s a thought to hold for the final Think. dinner for 2020, which will explore “Why creativity is a game changer”. Over fine food and Penfolds wines at acclaimed Brisbane restaurant Otto, Kirsten Galliott will lead the discussion – on the power of a creative approach to fuel business success – with Jodie Auster, regional general manager of Uber Eats ANZ; Nick Mitzevich, director of the National Gallery of Australia; and Erica Berchtold, CEO of The Iconic. Dates to be announced soon.

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