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In this episode of The Speaker Show, Maria Franzoni interviews Inma Martinez.

Inma is an advisor to leaders in business and government on how to turn digital transformation into competitive advantage and contribute to societal progress.

Progressing her previous careers in investment banking and telecommunications towards technology entrepreneurship, she is recognised worldwide as one of the leading entrepreneurs who pioneered the creating and emergence of digital technologies like the mobile internet, music and video streaming, the connected car and smart living.

Episode #219

How to make digital transformation your competitive advantage

Maria Franzoni

00:00:19 – 00:01:13

Hello. And welcome back to The Speaker Show with me, your host, Maria Franzoni. In today’s show, we will be talking about technology, digitalisation and human behaviour online. Let me remind you that The Speaker Show is brought to you by Speakers Associates, the global speaker bureau, working with the world’s most successful organisations providing keynote speakers for events, conferences and summits. My guest today is an adviser to leaders in business and government on how to turn digital transformation into competitive advantage and contribute to societal progress. Progressing her previous careers in investment, banking and telecommunications towards technology entrepreneurship, she is recognised worldwide as one of the leading entrepreneurs who pioneered the creating and emergence of digital technologies like the mobile internet, music and video streaming, the connected car and smart living.

Maria Franzoni

00:01:13 – 00:01:31

Her unique experience has allowed her to become a sought after expert in forecasting digital disruptions and revealing the potentiality of AI and other transformative technologies. Please welcome my guest Inma Martinez. Inma, it is wonderful to see you. How are you today?

Inma Martinez

00:01:31 – 00:01:35

I’m really well. I’m delighted to be here, Maria. Thank you.

Maria Franzoni

00:01:35 – 00:01:41

Listen, I’m so pleased you made it because I know you’re incredibly busy. What are you busy doing right now?

Inma Martinez

00:01:41 – 00:02:43

I am very busy working at the Global Partnership for Artificial Intelligence, which is an agency that was founded by the G seven countries in the OECD. And it’s a member, membership of 19 countries trying to establish the frameworks by which artificial intelligence should be built, created and deployed into society. So we have different tracks of work, from ethics in AI to how AI should be regulated, big data and its evolution. How AI is going to be introduced into the SME sector like the smaller, smaller companies and sectors, and be used as a transformative tool so that they can be more competitive. And then, you know, you cascade from that. There’s many, many philosophical questions that we ask ourselves, such as

Inma Martinez

00:02:43 – 00:03:39

could one create intellectual property out of artificial intelligence? How the regulation should be so that it doesn’t reduce innovation? Because everybody says regulation affects the rate of innovation. Too much regulation diminishes innovation, So that’s one of the things that keeps me the busiest. I was appointed earlier this year 2021 to be an expert as an adviser, and we have a very pressing agenda. And the rest of my time I continue to write scientific books, very interesting industry orientated. In June, my second book came out about how the automotive industry has become completely something else is not anymore about transport, digitisation and AI have turned the sector completely around into a sector that

Inma Martinez

00:03:39 – 00:04:19

tries to solve big problems of the future, such as climate change, CO2 emissions, safety of people, deployment of self-driving in AI so that we make driving something more control and safer for humans. And you can even expand into how the cities of the future are going to be built and designed. So my work is scientific advisory, and also I teach as a guest lecturer at Imperial Business School and Loyola Chicago University Business School in Spain. So I’m always doing things very busy and doing keynotes and advisory for clients.

Maria Franzoni

00:04:19 – 00:04:44

Wow! No wonder it’s taken us so long to get this appointment in, so but you still have. You have availability for more keynotes, so well, you’re definitely doing that. But I love the fact that you’re working. You’re talking about big problems. You’re talking about the future. It’s really exciting. But when did you first become interested in technology? Because it’s not something you always, not as many women go into technology as we would want. Really? What Got you interested?

Inma Martinez

00:04:44 – 00:05:39

Well, the first phase was that I was very lucky to be hired, like, you know, as an analyst at Goldman Sachs in Zurich in 1992. And Goldman was a firm that was very, very involved in IT development. And it was a collaborator of the CERN. So we had in the IT department luminaries like Bob LeBlanc that came out of some microsystems and the firm spared nothing when it came to building idea infrastructure. So I was one of the first users of web browsers, one of the first users of the internet in 92. And then, in banking my last, my last mandate. Because in banking, I have done from an analyst to a broker to then working infrastructure finance.

Inma Martinez

00:05:39 – 00:06:35

And it was working infrastructure finance and having telecom companies as my clients and seeing them build the fibre optic networks of the world. That really triggered me, a huge interest into technology. And when I decided that I didn’t want to be a banker anymore, and we all have that thought eventually in this industry, I looked around all of the sectors that I had under my remit, oil and gas, electricity, water projects, construction and telecoms in the mid-nineties was a rocket. It was growing at a superior multiple to all the other sectors. And I thought I want to be in a sector that is going to be the future. It’s gonna be exciting and fast-paced paced, and I then entered the strategy team of Cable and Wireless. I was really lucky the CEO had just arrived,

Inma Martinez

00:06:35 – 00:07:27

and was building new people, new ways of bringing advisers, and I was given the internet what nobody wanted because I was younger. I was the new girl and nobody wanted IP services. It was too small a business for that firm. And then I got it. And that put me in a position to then, contacts all of the scientists, all of the companies and the R and D teams that were developing what will, later on, be the mobile industry, the mobile internet. So I am recognised as one of the pioneers of the mobile industry simply because I picked up the phone and I called Ericsson in Sweden. And so now the R and D and said, What are you guys doing? I heard about what, I am a carrier. I am a network

Inma Martinez

00:07:27 – 00:08:28

we need to be. We need to be engaged. And I remember working on developing the wireless access protocol, basically how phones are going to transmit data as if they were fax machines and how telecom companies were going to build an enormous business out of data transmission and the internet basically. So that was my entering into this incredible industry that I love so much. I was lucky that I was retrained. So Cable and Wireless sent me to Coventry to an engineering telecom engineering school that they have. So I was trained as a telecoms engineer and that put me in a very good position to then combine my quant analytics from banking with their engineering to completely understand, you know, not just networks, but also how to develop AI in the early early stages.

Maria Franzoni

00:08:28 – 00:09:07

Gosh, I love that. I love the fact that nobody wanted to be involved in the IP stuff. Isn’t that incredible? And I remember WAP. I’m old enough to remember WAP when it first came out and the excitement around it, and we had no idea how it was going to change everything, but it’s just incredible, right place, right time picking up that phone, taking that opportunity. And it’s just, Wow, how cool is that? I love that. Love that. And then, of course, you’ve got involved in digitalisation and human behaviour online, and I’m fascinated about that part. Can you tell me about how that came about? How it links? Obviously, it connects beautifully.

Inma Martinez

00:09:07 – 00:09:55

Well, at the very beginning, the stakeholders didn’t know how their clients, the people, were going to react to the internet. And it’s exactly what is happening to AI today. So back 20 years, you would talk to the chairman of the bank or the CEO, of the CIO and say you guys should do, retail banking online, and they would be horrified. They would say no. People love coming to the branches, you know? Why would we subject them to technology like, what is the benefit? So I then began to be known as one of the people that developed quite a lot of the human-centric strategies as to this is how you attract a human to use a digital system.

Inma Martinez

00:09:55 – 00:10:33

This is how you provide levels of comfort, levels of trust, enjoyment. This is how you personalise the experience. And this, this is why eventually I was like the evangelist of, you know, human century digitisation, and that emerged from that. And this is why also the first work that I did in AI with my first startup was about personalising the early days, WAP services and making the experience easier for people and more enjoyable and more pertinent to what they really wanted out of a system.

Maria Franzoni

00:10:33 – 00:10:49

Fantastic. Fantastic. You’ve also been called a fire starter with regard to your work in transformational technologies. And we talked about transformational technologies in the introduction. Tell me a little bit more about that because you know, I’m not sure I know what a transformational technology is.

Inma Martinez

00:10:49 – 00:11:11

So when the dot com was the big hoo-ha and everybody was building websites, I went straight into mobile, and I remember sitting at conferences at fast company and you know, conferences organised by you know, Euro money. And I was

Inma Martinez

00:11:11 – 00:12:08

the person saying in the near future, our mobiles will be the tool that we will use to manage our entire existence. There’s nothing like a mobile. So I was. I was painting futures and painting scenarios that people were still not with it because people were still trying to understand the Web. And that’s why I remember one of these conferences, the fast company, out of a panel. I was sitting in a panel with other people, Call me a fire starter because I was just saying things that it may seem outrageous, but to me, I could see it very clearly. My entire life, I have been forecasting whether it was markets and economic trends to technology and how it was going to make a huge contribution to progress because that is why I like technology. I don’t like technology per se because it’s

Inma Martinez

00:12:08 – 00:12:22

a cool thing. I see technology as a layer of infrastructure that creates progress for our civilisation and for the benefit of humanity. So my interest is human-centric,

Maria Franzoni

00:12:23 – 00:12:37

Which is great because there’s so much fear isn’t there around technology? And so the fact that it’s human-centric is so important. Is that your big area of the biggest body of work for you, that human-centric piece?

Inma Martinez

00:12:37 – 00:13:39

A huge body of work for me is disruptive business models, because when you bring digitalisation, it forces you to stop doing business the way you used to do it, and it forces you to then take advantage of what digitalisation brings to us an opportunity. And I love disruptive business models. I have seen many of them operating in many, many sectors, and they are always so, fundamental at creating innovation. And it goes from maybe re addressing who your customers should be, or maybe re addressing what your core business should be. And I have been part of those teams advising. Let’s do this. So for example, I remember in 2010, 2009. I was in Silicon Valley and I was at one of these events and I met a very senior person at LG

Inma Martinez

00:13:39 – 00:14:30

and they were concerned that they were. They had to show something more competitive really fend off Samsung and everybody else. And it was at the very beginning of the play stores, the app stores, which I developed at Nokia. They were not called apps. They were called widgets because I had this experience, I said to him, People will seek for local close to them services is going to be hyper local. And in that respect, if you create your own store bespoke to a geography bespoke to a city, you will then attract them to use you because you will be taking down all the nightmare that it is to find relevant things in the app stores, which at the very beginning was really hard to find nice things.

Inma Martinez

00:14:30 – 00:15:22

Anyway, nine months go by and then I get the phone call. We want you guys. I had a small software development company. We want you guys to build us our app stores and my team. My little company built 19 app stores for LG in every single European country, under that paradigm the people would log in with their phones, LG phones and the first thing they would see would be very specific up to where they lived and they loved it and they loved it. And then the next one was HP when they bought Palm. We want you to do the same thing for us. So I have conversations with clients and then, literally nine months later, they called me like, now we get it. Remember that thing you said? Now we get it, and it’s because

Inma Martinez

00:15:22 – 00:16:15

I have a huge Neotenic brain. I’m very curious. I’m always reading about new stuff that is being developed by different teams. I have a very good network of colleagues in the industry that are working on fascinating stuff. So we all share a lot of things, and that’s why I can smell the winds and feel that there’s going to be a shift. Anybody that sails understands what I’m saying. You know, if you’re on a boat, you literally go like this and you know, if the wind is coming, you know, so that is me in work, and I find that transformation and competitiveness is not so much about how much money you spend in the shiniest new infrastructure. It’s about having the mindset to leverage from that. It’s about if you spend £50,000

Inma Martinez

00:16:15 – 00:17:00

in a super top of the line car, you have to be a great driver. Otherwise, it’s just an oxymoron. So it’s about combining what the technology allows you to do and then having the thought, the mindset, the imagination, being brave and say, Let’s take this challenge and just do it and then you see the benefits and you reap the benefits if you are like that. And I think, thank God, the marketplace has excellent companies that have done this and these are the case studies that I share with customers so that they don’t believe that I’m just selling them some kind of philosophical thought. But they can see it with their own eyes, how others have done it.

Maria Franzoni

00:17:00 – 00:17:32

You know that’s so important. It’s so important, especially when someone’s talking about, you know, disruptive technologies, future. You have to see, actually, I need to see something that some proof that it’s happening and it’s not something that’s science. Science fiction. What I love in your in what you were talking about all the way through. You’re relating it to the human. So although it’s about the technology you’re talking about how the human relates to how the humans and that you know that point about local that really, you know, speaks to what the customer that human wants, I want to work

Maria Franzoni

00:17:32 – 00:18:07

and have local as well. So I get that I want to. Yeah, I get that. So, it’s so strong. It’s so powerful. And now because you said to me, you can, you actually people listening on the podcast won’t know that you sort of you smell to the air to know what was coming next. What the sailors might do to see where the wind is coming from. You lifted your head. I want you to do that for me. Now, I want you to lift your head and I want you to tell me and I thought it’s too big and ask. What disruption do you see today and in the next 10 years?

Inma Martinez

00:18:07 – 00:18:57

Data is going to be an enormous, enormous asset in the world. And currently, it’s not just about big data or no, we talk about the data mesh. And the data mesh is that because now everything is digital. We are gathering such vast amounts of data that are turned into useful, understandable data that we can no longer work with the same paradigms that we had in 2010 or even five years ago. So we talked about data as a product, and we also talked about data as something that has to be very, very close to who manages it. For example, a podcast is, a podcast is not a web. So it’s going to have its own data environment

Inma Martinez

00:18:57 – 00:19:54

and its responsibilities and the way that you’re going to create hierarchies and architectures to actually manage every data analytic that comes out of it and even AI if you put it there. So we’re now talking about data as a product. Data has become the competitive advantage, for example, of many challenging startups in Fintech, the Starlings, the Monzas, their business was never about cash deposits like typical retail bank. Oh, how much money can this person put in the bank account? No, no. It’s about what valuable data are we going to gather from how Inma uses for bank accounts and how are we going to package it and then maybe create personalised services or even sell this insight to other companies? So it’s not about the money. It’s about the data now, and data is now a value and value commodity. So

Inma Martinez

00:19:54 – 00:21:01

you look at sectors and you see that the digital aspect has presented to you a new way to do business or a new way to leverage things that maybe were dormant. So data is going to be a huge, huge part of the industry conversations repositioning new mindset. The other is cloud and edge computing, but more importantly, edge computing. In the next five years, the potentiality of information of every object around us will be catapulted because finally, we would have networks, local networks on the edge that will make those objects give us information. So one great example is automobiles. You know the way they are now fitted with sensors. New vehicles connect to each other, connect to the roads, connect to the traffic system. Your car will have situational awareness. You’ll drive safer, but you also in a more efficient way.

Inma Martinez

00:21:01 – 00:22:06

And if this is all because constant network communications in very close environments and also, the health care system is going to be controlled and deleted from what it was in the past, because technology finally is going to create a huge transformation, the patient experience will be more digital. The way we diagnose diseases with AI embedded in radiology machines, for example, we already have surgery robots that are much better than humans at surgery, and this sector will change because of AI, because of digital, but also because the way we are now going to position, medicine, which is a preventative discipline because AI helps you predict, for example, I worked in radiology projects where we not only detected that the person had rheumatoid arthritis but how it was going to develop.

Inma Martinez

00:22:06 – 00:23:07

So then their doctor could design appropriate therapies. So society is embarking on a digital roadmap in which now we’re going to see finally, the products. So last 10 years, it was all R and D, right? Let’s create these technologies. And now, now that we have them, is what products and services can we create so that these technologies can really shine and this is going to be an explosion. This is like what the iPhone was in 2007, and before and after. This is the decade for the before and after in digital, we’re going to see incredible services, incredible products that will make life so much better, safer. We will be in much better positions to make decisions for business optimised many business units not just in supply chain, but also how things are run.

Inma Martinez

00:23:07 – 00:24:08

Detection prediction. One of the projects I work now is how to bring AI to agriculture and farming, which is a massive, massive sector, that humans are very co dependent because we need to leave and feed ourselves. But also arable land is decreasing and industrialisation of animal production is reducing because we are beginning to, you know, be more mindful about how we deal with animals, and this is a sector that is super exciting, so we will see that society also becomes more ethical. One of the big revelations is that now that we can see the effects of everything, we are now more mindful as to how we need to protect society and be careful with how people are dealt with. And really not condone abuses. 20 years ago, everybody thought, Oh, YouTube is wonderful.

Inma Martinez

00:24:08 – 00:24:59

Until now you start seeing horrific algorithms that, you know, put people in detriment when they’re online, children and they decriminalised. So now we see that we need to be even more ethical because of the experience of the last 10 years. So when people ask me, do you think that AI is going to create a better world? This is happening now. We are more mindful. We’re not going to let this technology and digitisation run rampant as how the internet was. The internet was a wild west. There was no rules because it was a technology that came out of universities, R&D labs, startups, not from the big guys. And I don’t know if you remember, but when Facebook had that

Inma Martinez

00:24:59 – 00:25:40

horrible problems a couple of weeks ago, and someone there to say, Well, it’s because the internet is glued together with bubblegum and sticks. It’s kind of race like that. So we are now establishing the revamp. How do we want the digital academic architecture of the world to be? How, what regulation frameworks are we going to put in place so that we control this and really is a tool for progress and benefit rather than something that is going to backfire? So we are. We are moving towards a society that is beginning to think about the purpose of everything and the mindfulness and the ethics of everything

Maria Franzoni

00:25:40 – 00:26:07

That’s so true. That’s so true, the purpose of everything. People are speaking about purpose much more. You’ve delivered in that answer, you’ve delivered art a master class for me, and there’s so many things that I’ve got to unpick because there’s so much so many takeaways from that Inma. So first of all coming back to the data and you mentioned Starling, and other organisations, I use Starling and I also use Wise. And not

Maria Franzoni

00:26:07 – 00:26:23

only is it interesting that they work differently, but they also offer a much better customer experience. Again, that human-centric piece. When I started my business and I had to get a bank account with the High Street Bank. It was such

Maria Franzoni

00:26:23 – 00:27:05

a pain, such a pull-over, with Starling, you know, within hours I’m sorted even though I’m a limited company and they had to check, it was just so simple. And that’s the thing that they have got, right? They’ve got that interface right with the human so I can see them taking over the High Street is in trouble in that respect. You talked about medicine, preventative medicine. Hallelujah. That’s what medicine should be. It should be preventative, shouldn’t it that you’ve made me very happy it’s so optimistic the cars, cars being safer, love that, AI and farming. The fact, it’s the whole messaging here, for me is incredibly positive.

Maria Franzoni

00:27:05 – 00:27:24

And I just want to sort of give the other side as well, because I can see there must be some downsides. There must be some threats to society in business with regards to digitalisation, which is not easy to say, and AI. What would you say are the biggest threats?

Inma Martinez

00:27:24 – 00:28:26

When you develop machine intelligence, there’s many styles and many practises. You have machine learning algorithms you have deep learning, which is really trying to create an intelligence that learns by itself once it understands things. And one of the areas that we concern ourselves is how do you ensure that whatever this machine is understanding, is good for us. It’s not going to backfires the famous bias. And derived out of that, there’s a fear that if many, many tasks go to the machines, what would be the role of humans? I get this question constantly, and it is a question that is extremely philosophical because our civilisation has not stopped creating more and more progress and transformation for itself. And we’re not going to stop now. And there is a particular mindset that

Inma Martinez

00:28:26 – 00:29:18

seems to believe that the 20th century was the best of the best, and we should stick to it rather than inventing new wheels and there’s like a blockage. And I always say, people find self-purpose when they work because it gives you pride in yourself. Humans love learning new things, and seeing the skills developed and becoming experts is what really kept keep us alive. This is why it’s very important that older, older people keep on doing things, right? You become a plant if you don’t work. If you don’t do activities that are also intellectual. But we need to question ourselves. What is the meaning of work and what should a human being deliver? And the only areas where we are superior to everything else, including the machine, is in creativity.

Inma Martinez

00:29:19 – 00:30:18

And I’m not the only one saying this. You can listen to neurophysiologists on TED talks and the people like myself that work on the human brain. What is the human brain for and AI? We see that there’s going to be a major shift in society as to really, what should humans do in the future? And there is an enormous need for creativity in the world. The arts are very undervalued, and yet they contribute so much to our progress. That digital society needs to become aware of this. We cannot turn everybody into a coder. For example, I’m one of those people that never encourage people to code. Imagine the bonanza that we had. Like, why can we not get more girls to code? What do you want to make girls coders? Let them be other things in technology and

Inma Martinez

00:30:18 – 00:30:59

technology and digital will need people with enormous imagination to conceive the products of the future, the ways in which we will create progress and benefits for the world in the future. So not everything is going to be an engineer. We need to consider that the workplace, perhaps it’s a place where you’re going to stand, stay more years and therefore human resources should really focus on how can we train these people to contribute more and more and more in our company and then transfer that tacit knowledge back to the younger people that joined and then the workplace becomes something else

Inma Martinez

00:30:59 – 00:31:37

because a lot of the computation and the heavy-duty and the things that really humans were never meant to do will be done by machines. But what will the humans do? And humans do many things. So this is one of the areas that I work a lot, what would be the role of humans in the future of work society and moving a lot of the tasks to machines. But also what are the things that society will need from us as imaginative, creative, intelligent, great thinkers abstractionists for the future. And obviously, the tech sector doesn’t delve there because this is not their thing.

Maria Franzoni

00:31:37 – 00:32:03

No, I can see that it’s not. It’s yes. It is a philosophical thing, isn’t it? But I like its creativity but imagining to imagine what the future will be and what we need from the future. That’s wonderful. So Inma, you’ve covered a lot of great and exciting topics, and themes in our discussion, what are clients inviting you to come and speak about when they ask you to come and deliver a keynote?

Inma Martinez

00:32:03 – 00:32:46

As of lately, they all are concerned about the future of their sector. I’ve done the future of the telecom sector and in the future, banking the future of automotive, the future of retail because we can see we can feel everybody can feel that there’s going to be a major shift and they want to know, what is it that we need to do? How do we prepare ourselves for the challenges that are going to happen in this decade, which are very different to the challenges we had in the previous one? So I’m doing quite a lot of sectorial forecasting that combines what technologies obviously you will have to have in place,

Inma Martinez

00:32:46 – 00:33:26

but also what business models so that you can create a competitive attributes. Attributes are properties that are unique to yourself that either you have them because you already have them or you create them and they allow you to be superior to your competitors. So when and when I say competition, I mean in a healthy way in making products that are better but also more fitted for the future and always, always, always for the highest benefit of society. You cannot be an evil company anymore. People see you very clearly, and people expect

Inma Martinez

00:33:26 – 00:33:54

that not only you sell them a computer or a mobile phone or a piece of clothing, but that you are contributing to the world being a better place. So how do you combine sustainability and the green economy? So I’m linking all of these demands of the future, into what companies should really look at? It doesn’t matter. What sector are there in it will come to hunt them? So, yeah, that’s those are the things I do as of lately.

Maria Franzoni

00:33:54 – 00:34:01

That’s fascinating. Fantastic. Before I let you go, could you remind our listeners the title of your latest book?

Inma Martinez

00:34:01 – 00:34:18

So the title of my latest book is The Future of Automotive, How AI and digitalisation have transformed this industry is available worldwide. And you can buy it at all the online sellers or directly from Apress media. My publishers in the States.

Maria Franzoni

00:34:18 – 00:34:24

Fantastic. Inma, thank you so much. That is just so much knowledge you’ve shared with us. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself.

Inma Martinez

00:34:24 – 00:34:31

I did very much. I love talking to you. And I love what I do. I hope that you could see that.

Maria Franzoni

00:34:31 – 00:34:58

We can see. We can feel it. It really comes across. So anyway, thank you, everybody for listening to The Speakers Show. If you enjoy this episode, please leave a rating on Apple podcasts and you can keep up with future episodes on the Speakers Associates website, which is speakers associates dot com or your favourite podcast app. And don’t forget to get in touch with Speakers Associates in plenty of time to book Inma for your next event. So I will see you next week. Thank you very much.

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Maria Franzoni is an established and recognised speaking industry expert and one of the most experienced speaker bookers in Europe.

As well as working with speakers, Maria also hosts live shows and podcasts. She currently hosts The Speaker Show podcast for Speakers Associates.

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