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Op-ed: Employees are our long-term, sustainable software

An op-ed by CEO Peter Sorgenfrei, printed in Børsen on October 25th, 2017

Technology in itself is neither disruption nor innovation. That comes from employees - and they’re the ones to be held onto.

You’re standing on the edge of the new world.

The winds are carrying change. Even the most certain things in life no longer seem so indisputable. Death, for example. We’re growing older. Our children will live much longer than us. And if our hearts fail us along the way, we can simply 3D-print new ones. Meanwhile, our souls have been uploaded to the Cloud.

Facing this new world, in which 3D-printing, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and other modern technologies are gaining ground at lightning speed, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed as a leader in this space.

That’s when insecurity strikes. How will I adapt? Can I adjust in time? And how will this rapid change affect our company and employees?

Technological development has always been a catalyst for major societal change. Just like when we invented the wheel. When we replaced the sail with a motor. When washing machines made their ways into private homes.

The only difference from these past advances is that now, technology is developing at an exponential speed.

Our companies need to shift up a gear if we are to act sensibly, and wisely, when it comes to the demands and services of the future.

Don’t just comply

The government has established a ‘disruption council’ in an attempt to prepare Danes for readjustment to technological change. But when we talk about disruption as a modern condition, we’re forgetting the bigger picture.

Companies have constantly been pushed to reinvent themselves in order to survive and keep up with the pace of society. It’s natural for changes to happen and for everyone to adapt.

The good news is that you get to have a say.

You and I, we fuel this development and we can influence it so long as we do not stand on the side line with arms crossed.

At Autonomous Mobility, we’re mobilizing a fleet of self-driving vehicles and developing a mobility cloud in order to provide more people with more flexible transportation. We’re currently proving that it is possible to do business in this new world order – even while having both feet firmly planted in a traditional automotive industry. We’ve been raised well by our parent company; Semler Gruppen.

We need to help the industry to prepare for the future.

A future in which I believe that people will increasingly decide to skip getting their driver’s licenses, prioritize green and sustainable transportation, demand customizable solutions and favour shared-access over ownership.

For a major car-importing business such as Selmer, it might seem counter-intuitive to form a subsidiary based on self-driving cars, as this goes against the industry’s business models in several ways. And yet, that’s not the case.

A changing environment

Self-driving cars are currently one of the world’s largest fields of development. An enormous amount of resources is being invested to win the self-driving market, amongst both established and new brands alike.

In our case, we’ve got a legacy framework that enables us to be innovative as an independent company. And our focus has always been to get the right team to make this possible.

Or, to put it slightly differently:

It’s human, not artificial, intelligence that should be in focus. When Autonomous Mobility was founded just under a year ago, we knew that the success of the company depended on the people we’d be able to attract. And we knew that self-driving technology would advance so fast that whatever product we had imagined in the beginning would soon morph into something else.

Coincidentally, none of Autonomous Mobility’s current employees have ever worked with self-driving technology. They do not have a background in the car business per se, nor are they software developers.

They’re on our team because they possess the capacity to act – and not just react – in an environment in constant motion. They see opportunity before and while it presents itself. Maybe that’s the single most important ability in the labor market of the future.

Technology is the fuel

It turns out this focus was the right one: Talent over technology. You could say that technology is the fuel for our business, but it’s not the end goal of what we do – rather, it’s a means to help us build the sustainable, self-driving society that we believe so strongly in.

Our team manages to work with exponential development to create considered business opportunities.

Now that the world is moving at lightning speed, it’s important to focus on the long-lasting, sustainable software we have; namely our employees and their skills. Technology in itself is not disruption. Nor is innovation. Employees are.