If the past few years have shown us anything, it’s that technology and work are now inextricably linked. Forever. And while digital innovations can make our lives easier, they can also create new barriers and complications, frustrating or even discriminating against workers throughout their careers.
Today we sit down with Bernadette Fellner, Business Innovation Lead for PwC Austria and an information technology expert who is attempting to “use tech for good,” and make sure that digital transformation efforts never lose track of the people they are trying to serve.
- The lightning speed of digitalization
- Social responsibility of tech providers
- Digital Humanism movement
- Practical tips for developing ethically responsible technology
Have you ever pondered the following questions?
- How do we give people and their happiness the attention they deserve in our organizations and transformations?
- How do we enable change for people and not push change on people?
- How do we create the culture and environment we need for people to express themselves?
Of course, you have! That’s why you listen to our podcast. But while podcasts are a one-way street, our Forward Summits are all about interactions.
Anna Löw will present a case study on their move to a 32 hours work week, the pitfalls, and their successes.
So come and join the conversation at our upcoming summit: HAPPINESS AS THE ‘WHY’ IN AGILE TRANSFORMATION, held in Berlin, Germany, and Online from 30 November – 2 December 2022,
You’ll get to hear from our kick-ass keynote speakers Sunny Grosso; Svenja Hofert; Debra Corey; and Fransisco Mahfuz. Take part in our practice, case study, open, and global networking sessions in Berlin and online!
Go to our designated Forward Summit Website for more info and tickets.
*Please note that the transcript has been automatically generated and proofread for mistakes. But remains in spoken English, and some syntax and grammar mistakes might remain.
Elisa Tuijnder: [00:00:00] If the past few years have shown us anything. It’s that technology and work are now inextricably linked, forever. And while digital innovations can make our lives easier, they can also create new barriers and complications, frustrating or even discriminating against workers throughout their careers.
Today, we sit down with an information technology expert and business innovation lead. Who is attempting to use tech for good and make sure that digital transformation efforts never lose track of the people they are trying to serve.
Before we dive in, you are listening to a limited series by the Happiness at Work Podcasts, by Management 3.0 where we are getting serious [00:01:00] about, happiness.
We are currently in the run up to our Forward Flagship Summit, which will be held from 30 November 02 December live in Berlin, and from your computer screens. This year is all about happiness as the why in agile transformations in this limited series, we’ll be speaking to partners, conference speakers and those with ultimate know-how about happiness in agile transformations.
We’ll be publishing regular in the run-up to the summit, so make sure to subscribe so you won’t miss a beat. And do keep listening for a special promo code for our podcast enthusiasts. Thinking about joining our summit,
Our guest today is Bernadette Fellner. A widely recognized [00:02:00] leader and speaker with a background in innovation, culture design, foresight thinking, digital solution building, and agile ways of working. She’s currently the business innovation lead for PWC Austria, where she works with clients at the heart of digital transformations.
She’s also a university guest on the topic of digital business models. Thank you so much for joining me today, Bernadette.
Bernadette Fellner: Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited in talking with you.
Elisa Tuijnder: Yes. So are we! So for those listeners, Bernadette is also a case study speakers at the Berlin Summit. So let’s get into some of the things that you do in a bit.
But here on the podcast, and that is no different with our special limited summit series, we always start with the same question. What does happiness
Bernadette Fellner: mean to you? So happiness means for me, the feeling of having found your place in the world and connecting with people. So connecting and having that kind of [00:03:00] really intense conversations with someone that really feels that.
The conversations matter, connecting with people on different kinds of topics and feeling that you have found a place in the world where you can make an impact. Yeah. So that is happiness to me in a nutshell, I would say.
Elisa Tuijnder: That’s awesome. I hope you do. I hope you have. Not at that place, . Okay.
So could you tell us a little bit more about yourself? So you have this incredible background. I marry many areas of business and innovation and digital transformation. What got you interested in this? Why? Why does intersection of work and technology.
Bernadette Fellner: So for me, I always had two key topics that really excited me.
So the one was always about technology, so how would technology impact our lives, how we could use it, and of course, what could be done with it. So when I was about 13 years old and the internet was just, arriving at [00:04:00] our doorsteps, I was sneaking into my parents’ office in the middle of the night so I could experience the internet for myself. It was a really exciting time and I grew up with technology and the changes that it brought with it. And the second topic was always, how people were connecting, how they were how their inner workings basically were set up. So I was always interested in psychology and in how people would behave and what would what would motivate them basically.
So I got into university and I studied media technology and digital media where we talked a lot about the intersection of design and technology about how human computer interaction would impact what we were doing and how it would shape our future and how we would work in that kind of future.
[00:05:00] And when I got in consulting all of that knowledge and all of that passion basically helped me to better help my clients in their digital transformation efforts. And the more I got into all this technology stuff and how tools can help people and how we were discussing with our clients in where would like the biggest benefits, we discovered that the human element.
Is actually the topic of transformation. So it’s not about technology, it’s much more about human connection and about putting humans in the center of technology. And that is basically how I got into that kind of work and got me interested in the first place.
Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, it’s all the different pieces of the puzzle came together at one point and you.
Pushed you towards this path and I like that. I also sometimes see that afterwards as well with my career path. I think Oh, and now I know why I did that at
Bernadette Fellner: some [00:06:00] point. . Yeah, it definitely is that way. So putting back, putting like little pieces of a puzzle, all those things came together and shaped of course how I approach my work and what kind of experiences I’m trying to create.
Elisa Tuijnder: I really like that you said that technology is not just there for technologies. It’s actually all about human interaction and facilitating that. And that really resonated me. We started out with, I don’t know the telegraph and then it’s the the telephone and everything was actually about connecting humans.
And that just bounced through my head in that put it all together there.
Bernadette Fellner: Yeah. I think a lot of technology is about connecting us, bringing us more closely if it’s done right. Yeah. Seeing that how we can use tech to have more meaningful conversations and more meaningful interactions is really I think an amazing thing [00:07:00] to do and to see and to support in the world.
Elisa Tuijnder: Absolutely. Very interesting. So at the moment, you are the innovation lead at PWC, Austria. How did you get there and what are you doing there? Can you, I, you don’t have to devolve into something really deeply, what are your goals there? And, yeah. What led you.
Bernadette Fellner: Yeah, so I am like a serial learner.
So I started out with studying media and technology and from that I was, I became a creative technologist. So doing all kinds of work for agencies, developing prototypes, and doing creative concepts. But I always felt, I was interested in so many things always, and it turned out that I was never really satisfied with what I was doing. So I was always moving on, always trying to expand my horizon. And that was also I think, one of the most important steps or yeah, things that I was always [00:08:00] doing to really get into innovation and transformation work because your work is never done and there’s always something to know out there, something new to experience something new to incorporate in what you’re doing.
And what my basic goal is to help my clients in their transformation, whether they are digital or deeply human. And what I’m trying to do is enable them, their employees, their customers, to have the best experience possible and also to help or to use technology in a way that really enables people and brings them forward.
So not to bring technology to an organization just for technology sake. And that is my goal, so that people use technology in a responsible way and that is really used for the benefit of the people and not the other way around. Yeah. And for me, that is a worthy goal, let’s say like that because I also wanted to add that I’m [00:09:00] from Vienna, and Vienna is, has a very intense digital humanism movement.
So people are really trying to get the word out there that technology should serve people. And Vienna is also the first and only certified ethical city, which I think is pretty amazing. It’s
Elisa Tuijnder: amazing. Yeah. I didn’t know that. It, We’ll get back to your, ethical things a little bit later in the podcast.
Cause I wanna learn a little bit more about that. But I’m gonna try and stay a little bit meta at first now and just see one of the things that I think we’ve all felt after the pandemic. Is this kind of flash almost of digitalization and digitizing operations because we have to, is that correct?
To think so? Is that really an acceleration button that’s been pushed through that or from your perspective?
Bernadette Fellner: So it definitely is. So if we just look plainly at the numbers in [00:10:00] the two years of pandemic, we basically made a jump of 10 years of evolution in the digital realm. So that is incredible.
So otherwise, what would’ve taken us 10 years, we achieved in basically maybe one, one and a half. And that speed is of course something that we are feeling that everything is so much con, got so much condensed that we are using digital tools on a very different level. And it doesn’t only feel to us that way.
It really is true if we look at
Elisa Tuijnder: the. Yeah, that I can feel that, and it’s interesting that we almost as humans, I think we have to catch up with the technology because the technology went faster than us, than we can process. Yeah. And yeah, we have to jump with it now.
Bernadette Fellner: Yeah, I think it’s just also, it was also so funny when like our grandparents now using Zoom and sometimes they were not even familiar with smartphones.
So I find that really interesting, the transition that [00:11:00] happened there.
Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, my 94 year old grandma uses Zoom and she uses it pretty well as well. So that’s pretty impressive. It’s actually . Yeah, I know. If you think about the kind of technology changes that she’s been through in her life it’s exciting to think about about what the future will bring.
Bernadette Fellner: Yeah. And also when I’m talking with my parents they are like googling stuff. That I’m really amazed that they know about. So I’m really taking aback what they’ve learned in the last few, in the last two years. So that is also fascinating.
Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. And, we’re touching upon it as well here. Like it’s really ingrained into people’s lives.
Everybody Not, it’s not just the work thing it’s there all the time. Do you think more businesses and kind of leaders and people in general should be the or governments? Because you talked about Vienna there should we be thinking about the role that technology plays in people’s lives.
And [00:12:00] maybe we’ll start with the good role that it will play and then we can waterfall into, the ethical side of things.
Bernadette Fellner: Yeah, I definitely think that it should be approached with a more let’s say responsible and foresight attitude because often we only think about what immediate problem a technology can solve, but not how it will impact us.
In the long term. So what I think would be a good approach is to approach to, to see it more from a human side of things and to really put people at the center of technology and think how will it benefit people if we use this technology or when we enforce it. We also see, or we also, when we are looking in the broader context, that there is a lot of.
Yeah, unintended misuse of technology or unintended side effects that happen. If we look at social media we see that [00:13:00] addiction is rising there. We see this always on mentality, also in our daily work life that really stresses it out, stresses us out because everyone always expected to be available.
We also see the undertaking of forcing the next generations of workers to be permanently in the virtual worlds with all these Meta Quest headsets. So replacing the real life with a virtual and then trying to push people into a world that basically replaces our real one, which is not what tech is basically for. Tech should enable us to do things we otherwise could not, it should not replace our human experience, but rather enhance it and create more connection and better connection than the other way around. So we see that there’s a lot of space and a lot of discussion that has to happen.
So [00:14:00] to take it that one step further to think what kind of impact I am I creating, Is it inclusive in what I’m doing? Does it bring fairness and yeah. Does it bring fairness and does it bring self-determination to people? Or does it restrict their work more? So I think those are conversations that we need to have much more
Elisa Tuijnder: often.
Yeah. Absolutely. Who do you think should be having those conversations? Cause you know, the thing with Metaverses and with in general the internet, it transcends borders, it transcends communities often. And I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s been hard to regulate at times as well in, in that kind of way.
So is it more of a day to day conversation? Is it more of the law, the European Union, the UN whatever should be talking about this more often or more overtly?
Bernadette Fellner: So I think it should be talked on all the levels. So [00:15:00] organizations, governments do have a responsibility towards their citizens to create a world that they can thrive in.
So that is the social responsibility and the social contract that they are having. So conversations on that level are necessary because they also have to put regulations. Very hard rules and policies in place in which tech can be able to maneuver themselves out. But the conversations also has to happen on organizational company levels on c-levels.
They also have to happen on product levels, and they also have to happen, I think, on people directly interacting with technology. You always have to ask the question. If you build a technology who’s responsible for the outcome, and you cannot actually make one person responsible for that. You have to.
Think about the diversity that you wanna bring into the [00:16:00] world. And that kind of diversity also needs a different kind of team that approaches that kind of work from different angles and bring forth different kinds of aspects, ask different kinds of questions, and bring that in from all sides.
Yeah, and therefore I think the conversations have to happen. On basically all the levels also in our daily lives, because we as humans, we as technology users also have to be aware what happens to us and what will let happen to us.
Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, absolutely. I think that, the, what’s happening or what’s been going on in the realm of, social media, like you said, like the influencing of governments or elections, et cetera. And is that, solely the responsibility of the platform or is that a wider societal problem that we need to address? And it’s interesting and it’s not, there are no easy fixes there, I think. But it’s good to continue to talk about it.
Bernadette Fellner: Yeah. Yeah.
So there are no easy [00:17:00] answers and there won’t be any easier answers, I
Elisa Tuijnder: guess. . Yeah. So let’s get back to that word ethical. I remember having ethics in uni and I loved it, but I thought it was so hard so that, talking about, there’s no easy fixes and no easy answers. So what role do you think ethics can play in the development of the transformation and transformation technology?
So how can leaders, attempt to think and even act more ethically and they use actually, philosophical frameworks for that as well around ethics.
Bernadette Fellner: Yeah. So I think there’s a lot that can be done in terms of technology, a lot that, that leaders can do to create a more ethical so to be more ethical and to be more intentional on what they are doing.
So we, as we said, we see a lot of side effects that are often very unattended. We often see that if you’re working with data, we see [00:18:00] that you ingrain explicit and implicit biases into the data that probably can discriminate individuals and groups as they get to have more or less. Yeah, good experiences with your technology.
When we look at like face recognition software, we see that people with darker skin colors get recognized so much worse. We also know that female voices work not as well as male voices with voice recognition. And of course, don’t even get me started on the size of a smartphone, which is basically made for male hands.
So I as a woman, cannot use one of the current generations of smartphones because it’s not made for the size of my head. So that is where you see discrimination impact, but what can you do about it, especially as a leader? It is. So what everything I said [00:19:00] before, those are annoyances, but we have to think about red really impacts our lives.
So what you can do as a leader is you have to ask first of all the right questions. So just because I can build something. Should I do it? And if I do it, how can I make sure that it is for the benefit of the people, that it really makes life better and enables people to do things they could not do before, or have access to services that did not, that they did not have before.
So what we can do is, ask the right questions, but also put together a diverse team to help you figure out those kind of questions. Because when you’re the leader of a project, you’re basically standing in the corner. You can only see 90 degrees, and you need other people to fill in what you cannot see.
And I think that is also a really important thing, that you can’t do it alone and you shouldn’t do it alone. Because if you want to really put technology or tools or systems out there. If [00:20:00] you wanna change an organization, you always have to think about the users that you want to create that for and the principles that you wanna see fulfilled.
So if you want to include everyone into your endeavor, you’ll also have to think about the principles that your decisions should be based on. So that can be things like fairness, that can be things like self-determination, like non instrumentalism. Freedom is always something that is a good thing to, Yeah, to put down in your principles.
As well as beneficiary or non maleficents. So that makes sense to think about those things. Put together diverse team to help you ask the kind of questions, but also to really follow through with it. So don’t get lost on the track and don’t get lost when something is going to start become difficult because it will.[00:21:00]
Elisa Tuijnder: Have you ever wondered about one of the following questions? How do we give people and their happiness, the attention they deserve in our organizations and transformations? How do we enable change for people and not push change on people? How do we create the culture and environment we need for people to express themselves?
Of course you have. That’s why you listen to our podcast. But while podcasts are a one way street, our summits are all about interactions. So why don’t you come and join the conversation with our kick ass keynote speakers, Sunny Grosso, Svenja Hofert, Debra Corey, and Francisco Mahfuz. Take part in our practice sessions, case study sessions, open sessions and global networking, both in Berlin and online.[00:22:00]
Go to fwd-summit.com. That is fwd-summit.com. For more info and tickets and as a podcast listener, use the code forwardpod at checkout. That is forwardpod to let us know you are a friend of the pod and receive some special Martie, the Management Monster Goodies.
Yeah, of course. Can you give us some, who are these? Cause you’re working in this space. Who do you see, Which tech companies do you see are really doing these doing this well? Are really thinking about these ethical approaches and, thinking about maybe the unwanted consequences and
Bernadette Fellner: that might come.
So I have to admit, I would not really pick out one [00:23:00] organization that really does it well. I think their intentions are over the place, but getting really down to asking those kinds of questions and trying to put that into practice. It. Not an easy way to do. And so we see that also big companies are trying to get there.
So just this week I read a pledge from Boston Dynamics stating that they will not support their robots becoming weaponized in any way. Yes, they will not do that and they will also not help anyone else to do that. Which is also a good sign in sparking the discussion on that kind of thing.
So that also means that they put out a very strong statement that their technology is not neutral, but they wanna do the right thing. And they wanna take on responsibility for what they put into the world, which is I think, a very important thing to do. [00:24:00] When you are creating technology, when you are putting it out in the world, out into the world, you are ultimately responsible for what you create.
And therefore, for the world that is shaped by that technology and taking responsibility is a really important step in making the right choices and trying to create a world that is for the better and not for the worlds of people.
Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, I think if I’d be that good in making crazy technology, I would always be scared that it would be weaponized.
And, it’s hard to protect protect you from that, cuz pattents get out there. But but yes, these, the, making it public and putting these strong statements out there are a great first step. So I just wanna quickly ask you like, I said in the beginning that you’ll be a case study speaker for us at the Forward Flagship Summit.
Do you wanna give us, in a nutshell what you’re gonna be talking about? It’s gonna be a little bit deeper than what we just [00:25:00] talked about here. Not giving too much away, but just a tiny tip of the iceberg.
Bernadette Fellner: Yeah, sure. So what I’m going to talk about is how we at PWC came into the topic of ethical consideration for technology.
How we approached that topic and setting up principles using frameworks to guide our ways. What kind of frameworks that might be applicable as well, but also the barriers that we are facing on a, like daily basis and the ambiguity that we have to deal with in a lot of our work. And yeah, how we, we are going to, or how we navigate that kind of space around technology and how to make sure that what we do is the best possible.
Elisa Tuijnder: Sounds really interesting. I really wanna learn from all of your best practices and all of the mistakes that [00:26:00] you’ve already made so we don’t have to make them again.
Bernadette Fellner: Yeah. It’s really not easy because you’re always torn between so many aspects and what we already learned is when you’re talking about like fairness, Fairness is not such an easy term because there’s not a benchmark.
No. No, it is not. And also you always have to think about fair for whom. And if you, let’s say you’re trying to build an application with an nice AI that does a certain thing and the data that you have is biased, but not because your data collection is wrong or anything, it is. The underlying assumptions and how your current world works is just biased.
So the question is how do you deal with that? How do you transcend that? Yeah. How you transcend it. Are you using the data that you have because it reflects reality, or do [00:27:00] you shift that kind of data or that kind of algorithm towards the world? That is more fair. Yeah. And who is saying what is more fair?
So who should make that decision? And who should define what is fairness and on what level should that happen and how do you even see that? So that is something that is not so easy and yeah, that we have to face every day. There’s
Elisa Tuijnder: a lot of parameters and a lot of complex discussions. So before we, before I wanna get into our last question on tangible practices.
I wanna make a quick detour on, when you send me your blurb, I just had to ask you a question about it or your bio. And I was doing some research. You told me that you are a trained beekeeper in your spare time. How, like why did you get into that and is it as relaxing or incredibly stressful at the same time?
Bernadette Fellner: So beekeeping. Yeah. That is rather interesting because I’m so [00:28:00] in, so involved with tech and with basically the digital role that I sometimes feel a little bit of disconnected from the real world with nature. Yeah, totally. Because when you’re all day working virtually or a lot.
You work a lot virtually then. You have of course a lot of experiences, but your experiences are mainly in your head and with your emotions. It’s not like you’re not embodied anywhere. So what I was looking for was something that would ground me and give me a different kind of experience. So when I’m with the bees it is endlessly fascinating how they work, how they, basically worship the flowers and bring in the pollen and how they organize themselves in the beehive. And as a beekeeper, you get to be part of it. You get to nurture them, you get to see how they evolve. You get to see how they make the honey. And you [00:29:00] also get to harvest that. And you get to have something that is physically there that you can feel.
You can touch it, you can smell it, you can eat it. And it is so different. Your day to day. Yeah. And it’s, yeah, it’s, and it grounds me and I like that kind balance.
Elisa Tuijnder: I love that you have you’re almost like you have, you don’t have one pet, but you have a whole hive of like little friends out there,
Bernadette Fellner: Yeah. And it’s pretty cool in Austria, you’re only allowed to have be species that are incredibly peaceful, which means in Austria you are basically, wearing that kind of hat, but you’re not like the whole suit wrapped in Yeah, the whole suit. So you just stand there with your bare hands and you take out the honeycombs and you just look at the bees and they’re crawling over your hands.
And because they’re already, they’re only in the stage where they cannot fly and cannot sting at that point of time. So they’re just calling over you [00:30:00] and it’s really nice. Oh
Elisa Tuijnder: yeah. They are. They have some fluff on them as well. I’m not scared of bees, luckily, and I do really like. Bringing you back to technology.
I’m sorry, you were
Bernadette Fellner: already, but , you’re good. My mind. You’re good. Mindset, .
Elisa Tuijnder: So here on the podcast, we’re always, we’re a really big fan of tangible practices, like things that our listeners can start implementing tomorrow, and we always try to have our last question around that. So what advice can you offer employers out there, or leaders or, even the peers, employees who want to ask better questions and be more ethical in their approaches to technology and digital
Bernadette Fellner: transformation?
So what advice I can offer is always ask the question. What will it do? So if you’re talking about technology and what will it bring to the world, you should always ask what will it do and what kind of impact it will create for you, but also for other people. [00:31:00] So taking it one step further than just, Okay, this technology will solve problem X, but also think about the implications that it would bring if you’re a team leader and trying to follow a more ethical approach.
What you should always do is set up guiding principles for your work. So to think about what is important and what you wanna see ingrained into your work. And also to have some kind of guidance you can act and decide on. And you can always come back and always say what the work that I did, or the thing that I’m trying to create it, it leads, or it is led by certain kind of principles.
And do I see that in reality or. And what you should always do is create a diverse team that works and discusses with you because you will need that kind of exchange. You cannot have all the answers by yourselves and you, and it’s not possible to do that. So having a diverse team and having the kind of hard conversations is part of the [00:32:00] deal.
And that also means if you are a white person, you will have of course, some kind of bias. Probably towards other skin colors. And it’s not nice to have that called out because we all think that we don’t have that. We all have things, the unconscious bias. Yeah. But we basically, So there are tons of biases out there.
This is just one of them. You will have all kinds of biases dependent on where you’re from dependent on the kind of experience that you had. So having a diverse team will help you balance that a little bit. Yeah. And of. Last thing, do your homework. There are tools out there that can help you make data more safe.
There are tools out there that can help you analyze your data, give you a statistical analysis, and talk and give you statistical analysis and better understand what’s in it. And if it’s biased in any way, you should [00:33:00] also think. What could possibly go wrong? Can the data be stolen? Can the technology be misused in what kind of way to do your homework in terms of risk assessment, if you wanted that way, because nobody else is going to do it.
Yeah. Nobody else is going to do that for you. And that is something let’s say it’s doing your homework, doing the groundwork that you just need to do. And that will also give you a good understanding of the types of
Elisa Tuijnder: things that you should look after. Absolutely. Yeah. I’m taking away definitely diversity.
And it is, that is actually a good answer to everything in, in, in business at the moment. Or not at the moment, should have always been. But, complex problems will only get solved with different perspectives. Bernadette, thank you so much for coming onto the podcast. When people wanna listen to your story further or get to meet you they should either [00:34:00] come to Berlin or come align with us on the forward flagship so much because we will be in Berlin and also on your computer screens.
But where else can they find you if they wanna, absolutely get in touch to you today.
Bernadette Fellner: Take care. Of course. Find me on LinkedIn. I think that is probably the easiest main thing.
Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. Yeah. That is always the easiest way. It is our biggest calling card now, isn’t it? LinkedIn or at least every, almost everyone is on there.
All right, we’ll add that to the show notes then. So thank you again, Bernadette, and I can’t wait to see you. Actually live and face to face, . In Berlin. So that will
Bernadette Fellner: be great. Great. Thank you. And I’m also so excited for everyone who wants to meet me and talk more about how technology can be used for good.
Amazing. All right, thank you,
Elisa Tuijnder: You’ve [00:35:00] listening to the Happiness at Work podcast by Management 3.0 where we are getting serious about happiness. Be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, and if you enjoy our shows, don’t be shy. Write us a review. Share the happiness with your colleagues, family, your friends. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn under Management 3.0.