Video Quick Take: SAS’ Kalliopi Spyridaki on Curiosity Driving Innovation

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Julie Devoll, HBR
Welcome to the HBR video quick take. I’m Julie Devoll, editor for special projects and webinars at HBR, and today, I’m joined by Kalliopi Spyridaki, Chief Privacy Strategist for Europe and Asia-Pacific at SAS. SAS has recently launched a new brand campaign, highlighting the ways curiosity drives innovation. Kalliopi, thank you so much for joining us today.

Kalliopi Spyridaki, SAS
It’s a pleasure; thank you.

Julie Devoll, HBR
To kick things off, tell us what fuels your curiosity?

Kalliopi Spyridaki, SAS
I grew up in an environment and a family in a culture that encouraged critical thinking, and that’s a good starting point for curiosity. And today, I’m lucky I have two young children, and they remind me daily with their natural inquisitiveness how curiosity expands our horizons. That’s a good reminder for adults because we tend to rest our minds and our habits.

Julie Devoll, HBR
As a leader, how are you encouraging curiosity within SAS?

Kalliopi Spyridaki, SAS
The driver for the public policy function that I have at SAS is curiosity. My role is to give SAS and my colleagues the opportunity to look into policy and legal developments of the future that will shape our market and will impact our company and to give my colleagues the opportunities to shape the future. This is not always easy for any company, looking five, ten years ahead, when we have financial targets and business priorities, but that is what I do for SAS, and I find my role fascinating.

Julie Devoll, HBR
Can you think of a time when someone asked the right question at the right time or examined a topic from a surprising angle that led to an important breakthrough or reframing of a challenge?

Kalliopi Spyridaki, SAS
One of the funds that I’ve worked with extensively over the past few years has been the GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation], Europe’s famous privacy legislation. At the beginning, when it was proposed in 2012, we were focused on the compliance challenges that the law would bring, and eventually, we figured out during the process that there are also opportunities with this legislation and with privacy laws. So the new data governance model that privacy laws introduced and the imperative for data quality actually lead to better data and better decisions, and this beautifully amplifies SAS’s philosophy around the power of data.

Julie Devoll, HBR
What are you seeing other leaders exploring now, and instead, what should they be focused on?

Kalliopi Spyridaki, SAS
I think that the digitization of our economy and our society, which has accelerated over the past couple of years, creates an imperative for organizations across the globe to consider [a] strategic shift toward data-driven innovation and data-driven decisions, and that sounds like common knowledge and a cliché, but there are sectors and organizations that are finding it hard to make this shift. An example is the banking sector. There is some new research that warns that bank boards are short of directors that have direct technology experience, and that is a sector that is undergoing profound digital transformation in terms of products and services that they offer to our customers.

Another good example is the government sector. Not only in terms of its own digital transformation and the digitization of the services it offers to citizens, but also in terms of ensuring that our government leaders and our policymakers [themselves have] digital skills so they can help reap the benefits of new technologies and at the same time manage the risks and the challenges accordingly.

Julie Devoll, HBR
What areas of technological innovation have the most potential to change the world?

Kalliopi Spyridaki, SAS
From my perspective, certainly artificial intelligence, AI, and when we talk about artificial intelligence, a range of technologies and uses and applications is huge. AI ranges from ranking algorithms to automated cars to medical diagnostics and efficiencies in the supply chain, the retail sector, [and] in manufacturing. AI has been part of SAS software for decades, and the backbone of AI is data. So we follow very closely the policy debates that have emerged over the last couple of years around ethical AI and responsible use of AI.

These types of debates that are now at government level across the world are further driven by the societal movements of the past year around social inclusion and diversity and the self-speculation that we collectively have undergone because of the pandemic. And as a result, you may know that the European Union has published the first-ever law on artificial intelligence.

Julie Devoll, HBR
What impact do you see the upcoming EU AI regulation having on the industry, and what are you most curious to see play out there?

Kalliopi Spyridaki, SAS
I think that once this law is adopted and enters into force in around five years’ time, it has the potential to shape decisively the AI market and potentially also create a global standard for the development and use of artificial intelligence. In the meantime, we are likely to already see an impact in the market, with an increasing demand for high-quality, robust, accountable, auditable AI systems as well as a demand for legal, business, and technical skills that will be necessary in order to navigate the new AI governance system that this will require.

And to your last question, I personally am intrigued to see how the law will balance consumer protection and the innovation that comes with AI or how it will balance the risks, the undeniable risks that powerful technology brings with it and the amazing benefits that it can also bring for people and the planet. Or if you like, how it will balance fear and curiosity.

Julie Devoll, HBR
This has been a great discussion. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Kalliopi Spyridaki, SAS
Thank you very much for having me.

Julie Devoll, HBR If you’d like to learn more about how innovators are turning curiosity into capability, please visit sas.com/curiosity.

Learn how SAS helps organizations turn curiosity into capability with advanced analytics.

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