Transform and innovate: Lessons learned at the GDS Group Digital Innovation Summit 2023

Article - General
By Alex Wood|6th November 2023

In brief:

  • Insights from GDS Group’s highly anticipated Digital Innovation Summit, which took place in October 2023
  • The event was attended by dozens of senior leaders from a range of industries, including healthcare, finance and publishing
  • Generative AI was high on the agenda as companies discussed ways in which the technology can be leveraged to improve decision-making, customer experience and augment the workforce
  • Leadership must learn to empower their employees to embrace change and new ways of working
  • Creativity should be viewed as a strategic asset – but what does this mean in reality?

Presenter, Alex Wood, hosting the GDS Digital Innovation Summit

The return of GDS Group’s highly anticipated Digital Innovation Summit brought senior leaders from some of the world’s biggest and best-known brands together for three days of discussion, debate and dialogue.

High on the agenda was Generative AI and the innovative ways in which this technology is being applied to improve organizational decision-making, streamline processes, augment workforces and optimize customer experience. We also discussed the need to balance innovation with risk, the guardrails that are essential to long-term governance and sustainable growth and the strategic importance of creativity.

In this blog, we will reflect on some of the key lessons learned at GDS Group’s recent Digital Innovation Summit.

GenAI is here to stay

Innovation is a 21st century buzzword which has evolved into an essential department of any business. If that is true, Generative AI (GenAI) is very much the buzzword of 2023. Every business, big or small, is looking at how they can leverage this technology to gain a competitive advantage.

At the Digital Innovation Summit in October 2023, we heard from a diverse range of companies – some of whom have already embarked upon their AI transformation journeys. Others, meanwhile, are still devising their strategies for implementation, identifying potential use cases and assessing costs.

The main benefit to hearing from such a wide pool of speakers at varying levels of AI maturity were the insights shared with our audience. Every nugget of information, every piece of advice, every tangible takeaway was relevant.

How long it took for OpenAI’s ChatGPT to surpass 1 million users (source: Reuters)

In our opening keynote on day one of the event, Marlan Hardie, who is the Global Chief Data Officer at Worldwide Technology, spoke about the societal impact of GenAI. He said, “so many hear AI and think my job is at risk. That’s not the case – AI, applied correctly, should create more jobs.”
This view is supplemented by the World Economic Forum (WEF), who have suggested AI (as well as machine learning and robotics) could displace as many as 85 million jobs by 2025. Despite that, WEF experts believe the successful integration of such tools could create as many as 97 million new roles in their place.

Empower your people

A recurring theme across the three-day Digital Innovation Summit was the need to empower employees. A host of reasons were given for this including improved decision-making across all levels of the business, improved job satisfaction (which can lead to improved customer service) and securing buy-in.

This was discussed during a panel session we hosted on “Embracing Resiliency and Transformation” with Guarav Jaiswal from Pearson, Charlotte Wilson from Geisinger and David Wright, a former Chief Data Officer at BNY Mellon. With such variation in terms of the industries represented, including publishing, healthcare and finance, it was fascinating hearing our panellists’ thoughts on why securing buy-in from different teams is so critical.

David, previously of BNY Mellon, said: “Leadership has to empower individuals across an organization to think ‘how can I do my job with the most efficiency and least amount of risk’?”

This was echoed in another of our panel sessions on day two of the event, which was focused more specifically on how enterprises can learn to embrace sustainability. One of our panellists, Bonnie Speck, a senior customer experience leader at Schneider Electric – spoke about the value of giving people “agency” to make decisions and take initiative.

of leaders at GDS Group’s Digital Innovation Summit 2023 said they prioritized organizational initiatives ‘based on value’


Creativity matters

An interesting – and perhaps even unexpected – theme to emerge at the Digital Innovation Summit was the strategic importance of creativity. This stemmed from an insights break session delivered by Raw Materials’ CEO Josh Roescher. For those that are not familiar with Raw Materials, they are an Austin, Texas-based agency that describe themselves as “unusual.”

Their CEO, John, is a big believer in bold, creative thinking. He urged audience members to “apply creativity to the least obvious opportunities.” He said, “the less [something] looks like a creative opportunity, the more creativity it needs.”

He highlighted the UK Government’s recent revamp of their website. He said it was through creativity that they were able to focus on their design principles and deliver an award-winning landing page that resonates with different users.

“You can think about the hundreds of different services, departments, datasets, systems, capabilities from voting to paying your taxes if you’re a small business or large corporation, working through regulations, permits and fines,” he shared.

“You can think of something as old and as large as the bureaucracy as the government of the United Kingdom…and also you’re thinking about diversity and accessibility. London is the most diverse city in the world and so we have to think about diversity and accessibility on a universal scale, which became one of the guiding design principles.”


GDS Group’s Digital Innovation Summit was a forum for thought-leaders to share their experiences and ideas as we explored key industry challenges, business growth and AI transformation. Our Summits are tailored three-day virtual event conferences that bring together business leaders and solution providers to accelerate sales cycles, industry conversations and outcomes. At our recent CMO Digital Summit, 75% of Delegates said the experience provided them with actionable outcomes to support their current initiatives.

For more on this, please click here. And if you would like to continue the debate at another of our GDS Summits, click Apply to Attend.

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