On January 23rd 2018, I had the opportunity to sit on a panel at Tamakkan’s Youth 2018 Forum on entrepreneurship, technology, media, and ethics, which was hosted by the Paris Sorbonne university in Abu Dhabi. As I spoke, my eyes fell just beyond the stage to where a large portrait of HH Sheikh Zayed  bin Sultan Al Nahyan stood. The forum this year was held in honor of  the year of Zayed, the founding father of the UAE and the leader behind the nation’s union in 1971. An admirable and changemaker,  Sheikh Zayed dreamed of turning desert into green space. At the time, his aims might have seemed far out of reach; however, Zayed’s love for his people and the future he dreamed for them pushed him to find a way to bring prosperity and growth to the nation he cherished. In the end, his work set the foundation for the prospering and vibrant UAE we know and love today.


Today, some worry that our path will take us to a new desert: one where humans are discarded in favor of automated employees. We find ourselves pausing when we ask our children what they want to be when they grow up; after all, how can anyone plan a career when the jobs themselves are in flux? Yet, I find this pessimism unconvincing.


When I looked at that portrait of  Sheikh Zayed, I was reminded of his bravery and creativity; his willingness to step beyond the norm and embrace the innovative. We stand on the brink of a technology-driven future, ready to take the next step towards an innovation-driven society where humanity is prized and innovation cherished. During the forum, I spoke about the need to instill a love of learning in our children and encourage the development of the following seven skills: Courage, Creativity, Complex problem solving, Compassion, Collaboration, and Critical thinking. By focusing so much on our anxieties regarding jobs, we forget that AI and automation may well open the door to new, greater opportunities. The next generation will need to have the problem-solving and collaborative skills to work with machines, rather than against them. The new workforce will need to expand its understanding of diversity beyond lines of race and gender to include human machine. Someday, our children may well find themselves working alongside an AI colleague!


I closed with the following:


“Most studies about the needed skills of 21st century leaders have found out that Courage, Compassion, Creativity and Complex problem solving will be the main human traits to lead a even more complex world. Traits that seemed to be innate in the late president and founder of a great country like the United Arab Emirates. I call the UAE and Arab youth in general to learn from the past these skills and leadership traits that if honed will help craft the innovative mindset and skill set needed to face the challenges in the region and create more opportunities to the 65%+ population that is below 30 years of age”.


We live in an increasingly layered world. Like Sheikh Zayed, we must be able to think beyond the comfortable and make a green space where others only see desert. Now, we need to foster that same creative drive in our young leaders and ultimately set the foundation for a generation ready and able to usher in a new “green space” for our nation. I have spent the whole of my career helping leaders, entrepreneurs, and individuals achieve their potential, and have learned that the first step towards success is embracing innovation and agility as a mindset.