February 13, 2018

I recently attended the NRF Big Show in NYC, I came away with a very stimulating and thoughtful overview of the state of retail.

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Technology is certainly upending our industry. This year there was a lot of talk on the impact of artificial intelligence, robotics and augmented and virtual reality. The question in my mind has become, where is all of this change taking our society?

More and more frequently we delegate tasks to machines and it must be said that they often do things better, cheaper and more efficiently than us! We are told that being relieved of these tasks will allow us to imagine new roles for ourselves, but given the number of jobs at risk and the pace at which technology is evolving, can we really be expected to discover all these new roles in a timely manner?

On this note, if we find our self-worth as a society in our work, what happens when large sectors of our society find themselves unemployed? It is bad enough that we have such a high rate of wealth inequality today, but this ever-increasing reliance on machines seems to be an added inflammatory. Yuval Hariri’s “Homo Deus” delves deeper into this issue by asking what society needs to consider as we accelerate down this road. It is a very provocative read.

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NRF Takeaways: Human Endeavor is Challenging Change

For me, the other big take away was the inspirational observations of Walmart’s Doug McMillon and Levi’s J.C. Curleigh. Both leaders spoke about how “owning” your history, culture and founder’s story can be the source of great strength and inspiration when facing the challenges of change. How refreshing it was to hear that human endeavor counted amidst all the talk of technology!

There were also important presentations made by Beth Comstock from her upcoming book, “Imagine it Forward,” on negotiating the rapid pace of change at corporations and by Arianna Huffington on negotiating a more balanced relationship with your smartphone.

These ideas stay in mind as we think about how our gifts can help companies and institutions tell their stories and thereby inspire and connect with clients, employees and partners.

What are your thoughts on the growing tension between technology and human endeavors?