Dentsu Institute recently welcomed Sanjay Nazerali as a fellow. Sanjay is a global thought leader who has worked at the forefront of media and marketing in organizations including MTV and the BBC in the UK. I asked him what thought leadership means to him and what global issues are currently drawing attention.
Interviewer: Taro Magome, Producer, Dentsu Institute
What is Thought Leadership?
Welcome to Dentsu Institute, Sanjay. First of all, could you share your ideas on thought leadership?
Thought leadership is a widely used and widely interpreted term. For me, it has always been about insight that can drive change. Insight can come from any discipline, from art to science, from medicine to marketing, from business to society. When I say “insight,” I don’t mean data or research—I mean new understanding. Of course, this understanding can come from data or research, but in the end, the insight is always developed by a human being. Humans are capable of making more creative connections between ideas than machines, which is why insight is, by nature, human-derived. Thought leadership is more than just insight, of course; it is an insight that can drive change. Again, that change can be in any field, from medicine to business, but good thought leadership should be able to deliver change.
Five Issues Connected to SSX
Dentsu Institute has compiled a list of 20 keywords
to help us get to social system transformation (SSX). What do you think of it?
I understand that this list was compiled for Japan, but it contains many keywords connected to global issues. I’d like to highlight several of these as I give five examples of themes that I think are global issues.
Issue 1 Technology and Ethics
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, said at the 2018 edition of Microsoft Build (the company’s technology conference) that “technology only tells you what you can do, not what you should do.” The theme surrounding technology and ethics is very important globally and relates to the keyword of “Ethics of Technology.”1 Two potential actions could come from this. The first is basic training in ethical decision-making as a global standard for all technology developers to undertake. We have global standards for practicing medicine, so why not a global standard for ethical decision-making? Another is the “reinvention” of civics, a topic that used to be studied around the world but has fallen out of fashion in the last decade. It could be possible to consider how we might reinvent civics for SSX.
Issue 2 We vs. Me
The world has been characterized by considerable division, such as nationalism on one side and international collaboration on the other. This not only relates to the keywords of “Socially Virtuous Business”2 and “Tolerance and Respect”3 but also reflects my point about civics. We need to learn a new way to see the relationship between “we” and “me.” Just as the pandemic is showing, everyone's health is dependent on compliance at an individual level. For SSX, we need to show that “we” and “me” do not contradict one another but rather exist in real harmony.
Issue 3 Attitudes toward “Work”
Globally, we are seeing that young people are looking for quality of life over work. Perhaps this is because their economic future has been uncertain since the global financial crisis, with the growth of the “gig economy” another contributing factor. We are also seeing young people less interested in ownership if they can rent instead via subscriptions or other means. Social participation, engaged experiences, and autonomy are becoming far more powerful than the work their parents did.
Issue 4 Politics vs. Purpose
Globally, we are also seeing that “politics” in terms of government institutions are becoming less interesting to the young. At the same time, however, the idea of purpose is taking on a deeper significance. In that context, there are more demonstrations against capitalism, for action on climate change, and for equality (such as the Black Lives Matter movement). The young are still interested in “politics” but not in the institutions of government; they express their politics through social and direct action.
Issue 5 The Danger of Efficiency
This theme is extremely powerful not only for SSX but also for commercial companies. We have been so focused on efficiency that we have forgotten about resilience. This is also true globally. I actually asked a business leader about the efficiency issue, and his answer was clear: we need to rethink efficiency throughout society and industry in order to be prepared for the “Next Crisis”—another keyword.4
Thank you, Sanjay. You’ve given us an excellent understanding of why SSX is necessary not only for Japan, but also from a global perspective. I look forward to your further collaboration with Dentsu Institute to communicate ways of getting to SSX.
Please refer to the following document for more details on the keywords mentioned above.
Building a Resourced Society with SSX
This content was created in collaboration with dentsu international. It can also be found at the following link.
Five Concepts for the New Different
- Ethics of Technology (Keyword 5)
Technology is changing more quickly, raisings concerns that our recognition and discussion of its ethical problems will fall behind. Take AI, that panacea of technologies. Cases of racial and gender discrimination stemming from biases in algorithms and data are now being reported. It is crucial that we scrutinize new technologies from many perspectives, including the social, ethical, and legal, and that we foster a society-wide ability to imagine scenarios of the future they could enable.
- Socially Virtuous Business (Keyword 15)
As the SDGs and other initiatives to solve social problems gain attention, there is rising expectation of the role of companies in using business to contribute to the public interest. Considering what is good for different stakeholders instead of purely pursuing profit can be considered an act of building social virtue. As with virtuous people, society needs—and welcomes—virtuous companies.
- Tolerance and Respect (Keyword 18)
It has become clear that society cannot properly function if we do not work together with people of different values and ways of thinking. Combatting COVID-19 is just top of the list. What is needed is mental and emotional spaciousness to accept the fact other people are different from oneself and that some things do not go as one likes. Also, discrimination and division are born from ignorance. Efforts to update one’s knowledge in order to understand the personal history and reasoning behind what other people say and to stay in dialogue with an attitude of respect will become increasingly important.
- Next Crisis (Keyword 1)
The DX has been useful during the current COVID-19 crisis, but what would have happened in the case of cyberwar, a pandemic of computer viruses? A “next crisis” mentality—anticipation of an array of possible crises, not only health risks from the “next corona,” but also disaster, war, famine—will be crucial in the coming era.