InnoKOL | Mr. Philippe GERWILL: ALL (Adaptive Lifelong Learnings) is Becoming Even More Important Today Because of The Amazing Pace of The Changes.

2020/01/17 Innoverview Read

On Jan.17th, We had a fascinating conversation with Mr.Philippe GERWILL ,who is the Chairman of the Board at GeniusBiz Automation, Executive Advisor at IMA and A.Brain Group and Industry Advisor for Healthcare at IoTSG. As the guest of InnoKOL Season2 Esposide1, he shared his unique work experience of various roles in multiple industries and deep insights on the market trends of smart manufacturing, blue economy and emerging technologies, etc. 

Innoverview: How would you describe yourself in three words? What’s your motto?


Versatile, inspirational and Visionary.

"I am an open source mind" I am like an open source platform where everybody could contribute, participate and I would help to spread the enriched message around and disseminate it further.

Innoverview: Can you please share more about your educational and professional background? And we’d love to hear what brought you to new technologies including IoT, AI and Blockchain.


You might be surprised but from a pure education point of view I have only a bachelor degree. I had a kind of special career with a lot of learning on the jobs. Of course I did quite some additional trainings and development on a regular basis including for example a very interesting program called CPM (Creativity and Personal Mastery) in New York with Professor Srikumar Rao who is also called the Guru of Happiness. And I have also an AI certification from the University of Helsinki. I worked in Manufacturing, Production Planning, Supply Chain, Project Management, IT, Supplier Management while travelling to many countries around the World and therefore being exposed to various businesses and cultures.

If we talk about IoT, it is a space which is very related to what is happening on the ground, on the shop floor. For me IoT has even the perfect letters combination. It is the convergence of IT and OT. But we should not look at IoT in isolation only and when you start to look further you would quite soon touch other topics like Big Data and AI if you want to really leverage the benefits of IoT sensors and devices.

I also started to focus on Blockchain as well but not the cryptocurrency piece of it. Crypto is only one of the applications of Blockchain technology. I was more focusing on blockchain technology in terms of traceability and identity management. I was for example talking about "identity management" for devices when we talk about IoT. Connecting millions of devices to the internet which were not connected before is also potentially opening backdoors and security risks. Blockchain technology can help secure that.

Innoverview: When I first read your bio, I risk being overwhelmed by the amount of different roles you are recognized as and industries you are conducted in. Inspirational speaker, digitalization humanist, futurist and mentor/coach with a proven record of accomplishment especially in the IT, Healthcare and Pharmaceutical industries, etc. So, my first question is basically about a paranoiac feature of your career: How does you combines so many interests and manage to be successful in all those areas?


Most importantly I always had a mindset of continuous learning. I start to get bored when I am doing the same for too long... I started to even find an acronym for that which is ALL (Adaptive Lifelong Learnings) which is becoming even more important today because of the amazing pace of the changes. For example, in my last 20 years in the Pharmaceutical space, it is not just about medicine and drugs. You need to understand what is happening downstream within your company in terms of business processes and various departments like finance, procurement, IT or HR but also upstream in terms of customers, patients, doctors, pharmacists, hospitals, insurances and the whole healthcare in general. 

And don't forget that it is always about people! Customers but also employees are spread all over the world. You need to put yourself in the shoes of those people and try to understand what is in it for them.

Innoverview: As you mentioned, at the beginning of your career, you spent about 30 years in various positions in big corporations in Basel, Switzerland, half of it in the Specialty Chemicals Industry. Do you think smart manufacturing is the future for small and medium-sized manufacturers? How will smart manufacturing save corporations money and translate into greater profits, more jobs and healthier economies?


Smart manufacturing is a lot about leveraging lean manufacturing concepts further. It is about removing waste in the process and engaging your internal resources in that process. For me it is a lot about "intelligent" versus "smart". Being intelligent is great but being smart is better! For me with smart you are adding some additional aspects. It is like intelligent + sharp + wise + quick + agile + bright and even crafty. Smart manufacturing is a lot about dynamism, agility, flexibility and continuous improvement at a company level. That's why SMEs have a big role to play when we talk about SMEs versus Big Companies.


The size should play in favor of the SMEs to be more agile and flexible. What we call "Hidden Champions" for example are exclusively SMEs. For example, smart manufacturing for Chinese SMEs is key to move away from just mass manufacturing based on cheap manpower and low quality. From where I live in France and close to the border with Germany and Switzerland, we all know the perception of Made in Germany or Made in Switzerland. But what is unfortunately still the perception in many countries when we talk about "Made in China"? Big companies like Huawei or Haier have invested a lot to change that perception and you are right, the challenge for SMEs in China is quite more complex. But keep in mind that 50 years ago "Made in Japan" had the same challenge and they managed to switch that perception.


Innoverview: You are always putting the Human at the center of the discussion and trying to keep digital transformation, nature and humanity aligned. From your point of view, how can we align artificial intelligence with human values?


In my eyes we have a huge issue to address first. There is a general misinformation out there about what AI really is and which is frightening and scary for a lot of people! People are afraid of a space of AI which should basically not only replace humans but even be better than humans... We are actually at least 30 years away from it and I am personally even not convinced that it would even happen at all. The human is still the greatest and the most amazing technology on earth! Being human is about empathy, caring, love and many more emotions which are not soon if not never going to be replaced by machines. Therefore the AI which we are facing now is in fact an amazing opportunity to replace human non-added value tasks and to unleash real human power. Having the human concentrating on what they do best and better. 

Additionally, there are also cultural aspects on that topic. There are different perceptions around the world for example when we talk about automation or robotization. In Asia you are much more open minded towards robots and you even welcome them because you will need them. With the ageing population we would need robots to take over some of the tasks as we might be short of younger people to take care of everything. But in the western world the majority is afraid about robots and we are convinced that people would lose their jobs because of AI and robots. We have short memories and we forgot that the same fear raised when the internet was invented. But did the internet kill or create more jobs?


Innoverview: As a big supporter of sustainability and an adept of Pr. Gunter Pauli’s Blue Economy, could you share 1 or 2 cases that explained the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem?


First of all "Blue Economy" is not just about the ocean. The blue economy is mainly about the marriage of science, innovation and entrepreneurship to create a new business model that transforms society.


For example, today's company concentrate only on their core business. The blue economy business model is seeking for multiple revenue streams instead of only one. There is for example the coffee grounds story which is about generating multiple revenues out of coffee waste. You get paid by restaurants to collect their coffee grounds waste regularly, than you use those coffee grounds to grow beautiful natural mushrooms as the coffee grounds are indeed a perfect ground to grow them because they are almost like sterilized during the coffee brewing process, you sell those mushrooms to the restaurants and the residuals of the mushrooms and coffee grounds could be sold to farmers as chicken food. Based on the blue economy there is also actually a wonderful production of "Stone Paper* that is up and running in Taiwan. It is paper made from crushed rocks without the use of water, without cutting down one single tree while being endlesd recyclable as they are no fibers that might become shorter by time. You see that is already an example about water too.


But I will still provide you with another blue economy example closer to the ocean. It is about seaweed! While we would have to face quite some big challenges about food with the growing worldwide population, too many people are not aware about the huge benefits of growing, harvesting and consuming seaweeds. They are not only growing much faster than corn for example but by farming them in the ocean and near the coast, they are reviving and boosting the local marine life and many fish species, crabs and mussels would be back. Additionally, there are some research going on mainly in the US and the Netherlands which are proving that feeding cattle with seaweeds would reduce their CO2 emission and New-Zealand is introducing a Tax on the cattle because of their CO2 emissions. Therefore, feeding them with seaweeds might allow you to get some Tax reliefs.


Innoverview: Regarding your mentoring experience, what inspired that move from professional manager to mentor? What are the key factors for the world’s best talent into great founders of great companies?


In my early years, a great manger was a great mentor/coach and I always enjoyed that in my job. My key achievements with my teams came from my coaching skills. It is about triggering and fostering their own thinking rather than directing them. You can't imagine how rewarding that was for me and the real satisfaction that I've got from that.


I am also a mentor for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women since more than a year now and I am enjoying it tremendously. My mentee is an amazing women entrepreneur in Mumbai, India who created her own natural skincare products after a very successful media career in India for about 25 years. She has a young daughter and she was afraid about all the chemicals that she had to put on her skin and started to develop her own natural skincare in her kitchen and today she is having a successful business mainly in India with that. Her name is Shabia Walia and the brand of her products is called Wild Earth.


I think it is very important to foster creativity and entrepreneurship. It is about giving really the opportunity to experiment and allow failure. Too many companies are talking about that but I am not sure if they are really living it on the ground. I am quite impressed about what Zhang Ruimin, the amazing CEO of Haier is implementing in the company with "Rendanheyi"! He is transforming a huge international Chinese Company of about 90'000 people into a company of 2'000 startups! That is just AMAZING!


Innoverview: We’ve noticed that you are also the Executive Advisor of IMA (International Manufacturing Alliance) and A.Brain Group. What are your suggestions for SME to transform from "Made in China" to "Created in China"?


As already mentioned "Made in China" is assimilated quite often around the World to cheap and low quality. It is very important to make the switch to "Created in China" which is bringing a strong aspect of innovation and high quality. I already mentioned the examples of Huawei and Haier before and there are already many more. But how could we support better SMEs in that process?


I think that we should build strong supporting federations and organizations either by regions or industries because China is far too big to have only one organization to build and implement an aligned strategy and provide enough resources to make that radical and complex switch.


Most of the Chinese SMEs would be open to engage on that new path and move away from the cheap labor and low quality manufacturing but most of the time they don't have the required knowledge and resources to do it.


Innoverview: As we mentioned before, many frontier technologies are changing our lives. How do you think technologies are moving the world forward, and who should be the biggest actor on the market nowadays in order to push technology to the mass adoption?


I am now going to share a personal point of view which I truly believe but which might not make everybody very happy all over the World... There were the years where the World got Europeanized with colonization lead by Spanish, Portuguese, French and British followed by years where the World got Americanized. But the time has already started where the World is going to get Asianized! Asia represents 60% of the World population. With Africa representing another 15%, the rest of the World represents only 25%...The US has actually about 500'000 STEM Graduates per year, India 2,5 million and China almost 5 million! China has managed to move about 800 million people from poverty to middle class in the last 10 years. I think people are still underestimating the speed of what is going to happen in the next 10 years in Asia and in China in particular. Next to "Created in China 2025" we have also the amazing OBOR (One Belt One Road) or also called BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) program and many other amazing Chinese examples like the High-Speed Trains.


China has already well-known world class CEOs like Daniel Zhang who took over from the amazing Jack Ma at Alibaba, Pony Ma at Tencent, Ren Zhengfei at Huawei, Zhang Ruimin at Haier, Zhang Yiming at ByteDance (Toutiao and TikTok) or Eric Yuan at Zoom Video.


Additionally some Indian leaders already became CEO in top leading American companies like Sundar Pichai at Google, Satya Nadella at Microsoft or Ajaypal Singh Banga at Mastercard. Vasant Narasimhan became also CEO at my former top Swiss Pharma company Novartis.


Innoverview: We’ve noticed that you are the famous and insightful speaker for many leading events, what’s your benchmark to select the top-tier conferences?


First of all, I never ask to participate at any of them but tey are reaching out proactively to me. The topics are key and I am usually selecting events about IoT, AI, Big Data and Blockchain from a technology point of view and Healthcare, Pharma and Industrial Manufacturing from another expertise point of view. 

And Healthcare Countries are the next important criteria as I am actually focusing a lot on Asia mainly with China of course and Singapore and on Europe mainly with Germany, UK and Sweden for example in 2019. For the moment I refused quite some invitations from the US for example in Boston or San Diego last year as I am more focusing towards Asia., Pharma and Industrial Manufacturing from another expertise point of view. Next criteria is the size and reach of the events in terms of speakers, participants and reputation.


My personal potential impact is also very important and it was a tremendous honor to be invited in October 2019 to the 16th Manufacturing International Forum in Tianjin to speak about "How 5G reframes Industrial Manufacturing" in front of 1'800 people. Of course my personal expenses need to be covered and I might ask for a speaker fee too because speaking for "Free" is not always a good message. It is like getting a product for free... It might also be assimilated to cheap and low quality...