Stijn Lehaen, Director of Technology and Infrastructure, VRT

Either people within your organization are playing, experimenting, testing and implementing with the newest technologies, or you are de facto a dinosaur in danger of becoming extinct. There is, today, usually no ‘safe’ middle ground where an organization can contemplate when and how it is ready to face change.

There has been an AI revolution in recent years, taking the world by storm and taking everyone by surprise, even those closely involved with AI. (Google co-founder Sergey Brin admitted in 2017 that he did not see any of it coming, even though he sat right next to the leading AI guys at Google.) So, to entrepreneur Marc Andreessen’s 2011 statement that “software is eating the world” we can thus now add “…and AI is eating the software”.

Generative AI

Now we have another fast-growing mutation in the form of generative AI, thanks to the likes of DALL·E, Midjourney and the open-sourced Stable Diffusion, which has seen a phenomenal rise during 2022. These tools have prompted a kind of ‘Cambrian explosion’ of all kinds of AI-generated images, sounds and videos.

We’re seeing even 3D content, that is not only fascinating and often beautiful to look at but could very well lead to a profound change (or backlash?) in the way we humans create, edit and experience media and other content. Evolutions that previously took months, are now happening in weeks. You almost need AI to process all the newly published papers about AI in media creation!

In response to a fast-changing world, where nothing is certain anymore and disruptive technology and business models are lurking in droves around every corner – for both public broadcasters as well as commercial media companies – we need to be able to pivot to new opportunities and deal with this uncertainty.

At VRT, we have gained extensive experience in using different agile methodologies over the past decade, typically in those teams focused on developing and integrating software. Since more than a year, however, we now also implement, practice and preach those same core agile principles and learnings in all our technology teams across our technology spectrum.

Flexible mindset

We do not approach this agile transformation as a set of rules that would then change our processes. Instead, we try to make a more flexible mindset become part of our company and team culture.

It’s not a question of believers versus non- believers in change; it’s about being or not being in control. Change and disruption is happening regardless, and typically at a much faster rate than anybody likes. But if we face this hard reality, we can still find creative ways to stay in control, deal with it and even master it.

As managers, we therefore need to make sure the experts and engineers within our organization are allowed time in their busy schedules to play around, experiment and get familiar with new technology. We need to keep our teams motivated to explore and evaluate, on a regular basis, the ways in which they manage their workload and how they deliver the most value to the rest of the organization. And we need to explain and demonstrate to our internal stakeholders how this is not only time well invested, but time sorely needed if we don’t want to become obsolete as organizations.

To quote the famous designer Charles Eames, “toys and games are the preludes to serious ideas.”

This article first appeared in issue 54 of tech-i magazine.

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