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TIPS FROM TOP - The Shifting Paradigm : Navigating Natural Stupidity through AI by Mr. Sahil Nayar, Associate Director - HR, KPMG

The Department of Industrial and Management engineering played host to Mr. Sahil Nayar, the Associate Director - HR, KPMG. On 21st January 2018, we spent an engaging and insightful Sunday morning with Sahil. It is amazing when a seminar leaves trails of thoughts which you keep churning in your mind even after it is over and this was one of those. The seminar started off with Sahil talking about his obsession when it comes to gathering degrees and how while giving a speech in one of the B- schools in Mumbai, he realized that degrees are of no use unless the lessons from those cannot be brought to life when the hours demanded.

With a blast from the past, he took us through an interweaving tale of how the primary function of a telephone, i.e. communication has seen a paradigm shift. Now, it is nearly impossible for us to stay away from our mobile phones for even a couple of hours. We feel restless and are so engrossed in it that it has become synonymous with our lives. “We are the prisoners of tech asylum and we are 'applicationally' challenged...scary as it sounds, it's in fact going to become scarier” were the words which piqued the interest of the assembled junta. Time and again, a havoc is created in discussions about how AI will take away all our jobs. In this context, Mr. Nayar shared with us that when Industrial Revolution happened, a lot of mundane repetitive jobs were lost but that did not drive the notion of unemployability, as 're-skilling' was the effective trend. That is the fundamental issue, we need to upscale our skill-set to survive. Sahil placed various examples for our consideration and drove further introspection with a very interesting exercise where there was a cross sharing of ideas and aspirational skill-sets among the attendees.

The idea of adaptation and enhancing our skill-set is driven by: true leadership; the ability of the workforce to learn; and the corporate’s ability to train people quickly through effective learning systems. We, as humans are resistant to change and it is the job of the leader to make the change gradual and easier for others. Downsizing does not really serve as the answer, which lies, hidden away in 'up-skilling'; making the workforce ready and trained to deal with different work cultures. As an employee, one needs to have intellectual bandwidth; the intent to learn the new skills; and agility i.e. the capacity to ramp up to changes.

In another interactive exercise, we formed 2 groups and discussed the top 5 skills we wished to learn. At the end of the exercise, we also discussed the ways in which the activity could have been more streamlined. Sahil mentioned that the tectonic shift in the future work environment does not imply the loss of jobs, it would rather cause a realignment of the jobs. And if one wants to command a premium, one needs to have differentiated skill set.

Before ending the session Sahil showed us an inspiring video of a girl who lost her hearing at the age of 18 but decided to continue singing. The ability of humans to innovate and their creative aptitude when the need arises might as well be the key differentiators that shall give us the edge. The out of the mill session ended with Sahil responding to raucous applause, "We all should realize...what is life if not well lived!”


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