The future is what is to come. What is not yet, but will be. For some, it represents illusion; for others, their greatest fear. And yet, sometimes we get the impression that the future has already arrived, that it slipped into our lives without realizing it and that we are, in fact, immersed in a world that we imagine is still far away. Digitization, Artificial Intelligence, predictive algorithms … what sounds like science fiction to many, has become a daily reality. What movies like Blade Runner or Minority Report postulated are no longer futuristic chimeras, but realities of our times. And if this whole matter sounds as fascinating and convoluted to you as it does to me, don’t worry: Joaquín Danvila is here to help shed light on our temporal disorder.
Engineer, teacher, digital marketing expert, lecturer. And Valencian. Joaquín Danvila is a man who understands the challenges that companies face today, the main one being digital transformation. “It is something that comes from afar, although this year, due to the circumstances that we all know, it has gained great relevance,” he explains. “Traditional businesses are increasingly facing an eminently digital customer and the company must adapt and expand its borders to reach this new audience.”
The economic crisis derived from the pandemic, which affects not only Spain but the whole world, has caused the flourishing of entrepreneurship and self-employment. What does this mean? “Many people have chosen to be self-employed or to undertake as a solution to the situation we live in. It is a perfectly valid solution that, on many occasions, pays off. Although I would like to point out that to start a company it is advisable to come previously armed with good training. We all know cases of people who without studies or resources have built large companies, but it is curious to see how most of them, when a microphone is placed in front of them, recommend future entrepreneurs to acquire knowledge of finance and marketing first, so as not to commit certain mistakes they made ”.
Joaquín Danvila knows a lot about training, a teacher and expert speaker who exposes his ideas all over the world. Especially in Hispanic American countries, where he has an impeccable reputation. “I have worked with Colombian, Mexican, and Dominican institutions. In many cases their governments go overboard and send us fully subsidized students. They are geographically close to the United States, but the language is ours, it is something we share and that unites us. There is a very strong cultural identification ”. What is the opinion of the Spanish University in the world? “The Spanish University, private and public, has a very good reputation internationally. Perhaps the connection between the university and the company is missing, that practical part. It has to facilitate employability and entry into the professional world for students ”.
What advice do you have for students to cope with the changes we experience in this tumultuous age? “We always hear that we are in a stage of change, but those of us who are of a certain age know that we have always been in constant change. The difference, perhaps, is the speed with which that change occurs, which is now faster. In digital environments, any news spreads around the world in a minute. It is a new scenario, in which you can no longer train based on professional profiles that existed ten years ago, because it is likely that you will be left behind. Every entrepreneur has to adapt ”.
I am an entrepreneur. This column is born of entrepreneurship. All of us who compose it have been brave enough (and unaware, in good measure) to launch ourselves into a project that we are passionate about. And if we have learned something in the process, it is that a good idea is not enough, but that this idea also has to appeal to the consumer and satisfy their needs. “This is the most relevant element to undertake. A business idea is good as long as the customer accepts it. Many think that a great idea is everything, but if the public does not admit that great idea to you, it comes to nothing. The idea must be born from the customer’s need or serve to create that need. Successful companies are those that give the customer something they need or provide value ”.
Joaquín Danvila is a professor in essence and vocation. His words are like lessons that one feels one should underline and memorize. Defines business identity as “what they say about you when you are not present. The image you intend to project and the one that the public perceives is not always the same ”. On the generational clash between the youngest and the most experienced workers, he emphasizes that “Young people are digital natives, while the 40, 50 or 60-year-old worker has lived in an era prior to digitization. It is important to remember that the fact that young people know better about digital media does not enable them to be better professionals. Experience is always a core value. That is why we all have to come together and be flexible ”. And, most importantly: what place does the human being occupy in an era where everything seems controlled by machines and complex mathematical equations? “In a digitized environment, it seems that the human loses relevance, but it is the opposite: humane treatment is precisely the differential value. The key to success is to take advantage of all the digital benefits without forgetting that our clients are still Earthlings and that the human approach to them continues to be fundamental”.
Not a few of us put our hands to our heads when we discover that our conversations are heard and processed by machines. Thus, it can happen that one day we talk about cycling and the next we receive advertising about bicycles on our social networks. It’s called Big Data, but in this case naming it doesn’t soften a certain sense of unease. Joaquin laughs. “It is so, but do not be alarmed, there is no one gossiping our conversations. They are machines that record our navigability (if we look for shoes on Amazon, they will suggest more shoes) and our audio channels. But there is more, like the graphic image sweep. Look, it happened to me two years ago that Instagram suggested some hair implants. And not because I had previously sought treatments, it is simply that my head is like a ball, something that is evident in the photographs that I publish ”, he laughs.
This is reminiscent of a curious case that took place in the United States, where a law firm contacted a person to offer to handle her divorce case. The shocking thing is that the man was not divorced nor had he started any separation process. Simply, Big Data had valued, according to his messages, comments and behaviors on the network, that he was an individual in whose future he was planning a divorce.
Will technology save us from ourselves? “Well used technology, yes. One that helps to be better, not one that enslaves us ”. Times change … does the authentic remain? “Definitely. The authentic thing, that yes, can be flexible ”. Is Artificial Intelligence something fearsome or a logical result of our times? “Artificial Intelligence has come to improve the commercial relationship of companies with the consumer.” And as we are: the influencers. “They are a key piece at all levels and sectors. In the world of fashion, for example, its impact is very evident. But every time you find more influencers or micro influencers in the field of politics or consulting. It is not so much to be handsome but to maintain coherence and a credible message ”.
I get the impression that often the feeling we convey is more important than the message we deliver. “It’s like this”, Danvila agrees, “we see it in public life, politics, in the media… For example, in the advertising of universities or business schools, they don’t tell you what syllabus they are going to teach their students, but rather show smiling students sitting in classrooms or on campus lawns. A sincere smile is a very powerful transmitter ”.
Before concluding the interview, I ask Joaquín for the (scarce) public presence of trans people in the environments in which he moves, and I post as a candidate to cover that drop. “You have the doors open,” he enthuses. “In these environments, prejudice is left out. All things evolve for the better. It is the modern and successful company that adapts to change.” The enterprise of the future therefore rests on three pillars: “Resilience, adaptability and humanity”.
It is possible that a machine, somewhere, knows my tastes and preferences, that anticipates needs that I did not even believe to have, may even know me better than I know myself. But it comforts me to know that behind these machines and those impossible algorithms there are human beings, like Joaquin Danvila, with a clear vocation to preserve humanity in this world of numbers. And the next time I skip advertising a product that curiously matches my tastes, I won’t be scared or take my hands to my head. I will simply think that the future has arrived, that tomorrow was given yesterday, and that it is not, after all, as terrifying as we had been painted.
Text: Alex Merino Aspiazu
You can see the full interview here