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The New Problem Solver: Top PepsiCo Executive Works Culture Change

The New Problem Solver: Top PepsiCo Executive Works Culture Change

The changes are happening on the fringes ... the people closest to the consumers are your sensors, and if you don't allow them to make decisions and adapt to consumer needs, you are going to be stagnant." Those are words of advice from PepsiCo president West Division Beverages US Johannes Evenblij, speaking at FIU Business in October as part of the college's CEO Speaker Series.

He shared how training and empowering employees in a new way is one example of how companies like PepsiCo are upgrading their operating models in response to the seismic shift toward more computing power and automation.

"We get fantastic ideas from people onsite who see a problem and, when we allow them to fix it, they will just do it," said Evenblij during his talk, which was presented as part of the Wertheim Lecture Series.

The shift toward automation is happening at an exponential pace because technology interconnects us more than ever before, Evenblij said. "If an idea is developed in China, you will know about it here in hours or days," he said. "In the past, it would take a year for you to hear about a new idea."

Meantime, the cost of energy is plummeting and robots are becoming more prevalent, fundamentally changing the workforce. Sharing videos of a fully automated Chinese manufacturing company and self-driving cars delivering groceries, he promised that what we're seeing now is just the beginning.

"In the new world," he said, "if you're not getting feedback all of the time, you're not going to be able to learn or adapt. You're going to have a job no one now has heard about. I'm going to end up doing something different than what I'm doing now."

Through it all, Evenblij remains optimistic, and encouraged the students to persevere. "You can do what you want to do, it'll just be tough," he said. "You'll be rejected and fail time and time again, but if you're there and resilient, you'll get where you want to be."

Karlene Cousins, chair of the FIU Business Department of Information Systems and Business Analytics, echoed Evenblij's optimism in the face of change.

"Even though there is astronomical change driven by artificial intelligence, there's human intelligence behind artificial intelligence," Cousins said. "There will always be a role for us, even though we don't know what it will look like in the future."