Q&A with Holly Ransom

20 January 2020 •

With AIME just under a month away the team caught with the 2020 Knowledge Exchange Content Weaver and Keynote Speaker, Holly Ransom.

Holly Ransom is recognised globally for her ability to synthesise and simplify complex issues, and create engaging, thought-provoking conversation. Named one of Australia’s 100 Most Influential Women by the Australian Financial Review, Holly has delivered a Peace Charter to the Dalai Lama, interviewed Barack Obama on stage and was Sir Richard Branson’s nominee for Wired Magazine’s ‘Smart List’ of Future Game Changers to watch in 2017.


As the Keynote speaker and content weaver for the Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event for 2020, what are you most looking forward to?

It is so important for us all to step outside our day to day working lives to connect, create and re-calibrate. Challenging our own assumptions is near impossible to do when we are on the run, firing in all directions and juggling 360 stakeholder management. Perfectly positioned at the beginning of the year, this event offers the opportunity for us all to work on our business rather than in. Each year, AIME events consistently attract leaders who engage with the content at an elevated level, bringing unique perspectives and helping ripples of change extend far beyond the conference. With the privilege of helping formulate the content of this year’s program, I hope we are able to bring truly new ideas to light and come away with tactical plans for the future. I’m looking forward to the surprising questions, the sparked debates, the uh-huh moments that will change the way we think about what we do and inspire us to do things differently.


With all the awakening discussion on technology side effects in our lives, how do you strike a balance with disrupting technology in your day to day activity?

I am a tech-optimist. In today’s augmented world, it is easy to feel that we don’t have a choice as to how we interact with technology. I don’t believe this is the case. We need to actively use technology as a force for good, via our own daily habits and the implementations we drive as leaders in our communities. Whether that be choosing more carefully what we read, intentionally breaking from our echo chambers, utilising data to elicit better physical and mental health practices, increase equality of information flow and ensure ethical representation in programming, we all have a role to play in leveraging technology for good. In the best use case for disruptive technology, humans are able to operate at their highest level. Our capacity for empathy, creativity, curiosity and connection to the natural realm has never been more pertinent. The key thing to remember is that in the age of predictive text, we must continue to write our own narrative, and not be idle in our choices.


Why is human connection so important to maintain in the meetings industry?

Technology optimises the way individuals communicate, connect and learn. It has the power to change the very architecture of our minds, but not necessarily our hearts – that is the work of human connection. In a time where uncertainty is driving fear and divisive rhetoric, our ability to relate to others is essential. Deloitte released a study last year entitled ‘Why the future of work is human’ that outlined the way our working world has moved from hands to head to heart. This latter shift provides insight into the synergy of the human-technology relationship. Our ability to influence and be influenced is a feedback loop that plays out in real-time with a room of other humans. In the meetings industry, we have the ability to play a major role in changing the minds and hearts of the world’s preeminent thought-leaders. If the future of the meetings industry is not human connection, we have lost our reason for being. Our role is not only to help humans relate to new ideas, but to relate to each other.


We are on the horizon where digitalisation, automation and augmented reality are playing an important role in our lives – Do you see a drastic change over the next decade that raises issues in humanity?

I believe technology is the single greatest lever we have to diminish or expand the growing divide in our global community. Every day, we read about mind-bending new technologies or innovative workplace practices on one hand, and stories of mismatched skills being taught to young people or significant workforce retrenchments on the other. Scientists and AI experts agree that we are in a race against time: we need to establish ethical guidelines to catch up to technology’s irreversible integration into our lives. In January 2019, Gartner reported that AI adoption tripled in the last year alone, with an estimated 37% of firms now implementing AI in some form. In a recent Deloitte survey, 76% of executives said they expected AI to “substantially transform” their companies within three years. Since 2017, more than two dozen national governments have released AI strategies or plans to develop ethics standards, policies, and regulations.

The problem? No two strategies are alike. I see the most drastic changes over the next decade as the dire need for global ethical guidelines to be developed. However issues such as ethics, privacy and bias all shift dramatically between countries and cultures. Major technology companies are ahead in the global race to develop ethical guidelines and AI governance teams. We see new partnerships between Facebook and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) forming The Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence, with an initial investment of $7.5 million. Amazon and the National Science Foundation recently earmarked $10 million for AI fairness research. Unless governments can get ahead of rapid change, the rule-breakers will become the rule-makers.


Tell us about the kind of leadership and decision making that will better drive the hyper-connected world.

We need leaders who are pragmatic, aware and able to understand the complex implications of technology, and above all, who have a willingness to act. There is a new language of leadership forming. One that champions courageous individuals who are able to nurture leadership in others as well as provide a vision. Speaking on stage with former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice this month, we discussed how to move forward when the stakes are high and the path is unclear. Ultimately, she said, “you have to keep your wits about you, you have to trust your instincts and your gut, and those around you. You have to make the decisions, because not making a decision is making a decision.”


Welcome Plenary 1: Exploring the Impact of a Hyper-connected Humanity
Date: Monday, 17 February 2020

Plenary 2: Leveraging Event Technology Today, Tomorrow and in the Future
Date: Monday, 17 February 2020


If you want to see Holly speak, register for AIME today and upgrade your ticket to attend the Knowledge Exchange.

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