#168 Corey Glickman, Vice President & Head of Infosys Sustainability & Design
Corey Glickman is vice president and head of the Infosys Sustainability & Design business, which develops and deploys Smart Space technologies at private and public organizations. Corey has over 35 years of experience in industry consulting, providing advice on technology and business. He is an expert in strategic design, digital transformation, customer experience strategy, and the use of visualization applied to the development of innovative products, processes, and services. Corey specializes in the formation of design and innovation programs, overseeing execution teams, working in a global centers of excellence that creates breakthrough business solutions and technologies.
Corey is a member of the World Economic Forum Pioneer Cities working group, and he is also a Singularity University faculty expert guest lecturer. He has served on review boards for publications like the Harvard Business Review, and he has won international design awards, including being named one of the 100 most influential designers of the decade by the American Institute of Graphic Arts. He lives in the Pittsburgh area.
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Bigger Than Us #168
This transcript has been lightly edited.
Host Raj Daniels 00:46
Corey, how are you today?
Corey Glickman 01:32
Hi, Raj. I’m doing fine. Glad to be here.
Host Raj Daniels 01:34
Corey, I’m excited to dig into this conversation. And especially with your background, I had a choice of places to start. I decided to start here. Tell me about working with or being mentored by Fred Rogers.
Corey Glickman 01:48
That’s a great question. So the opportunity of meeting Fred Rogers and being mentored by him is a unique opportunity, I think, for many individuals, but it may not be so uncommon in circles in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I live. That’s where he is from and where his show was created. Early on in my career, one of my first jobs was with public television, which is WQED here in Pittsburgh.
I remember my first day at work, I came in as a designer. So that would be a production designer, someone who creates promotions for shows, actually designs show sets, gets to do some television production, eventually editing, all these very interesting objects and things to do. And my first day in the building, I get on an elevator. And who’s in the elevator? It’s Fred Rogers. I was speechless, not because I’m, like, odd.
I’m just thinking, “Here’s an individual who I’ve seen since I’ve probably been five years old, that I can remember. It’s probably one of the few TV shows that my parents are probably being alone in the room saying, “We’re safe to leave him in a room with this TV show because of the messaging that’s coming across here.” And I don’t think he said anything the first day across there. But eventually what had happened was as I started to work on shows and got to know him, we became very close.
He, very much in person, is the personality that you had seen on TV — as millions of people have seen on TV — and his messaging around who you are, and it’s okay to be, etc, etc. And what was absolutely fascinating — what we don’t often I think, give credit to people like Fred Rogers for — is he was truly a pioneer, not just socially, but also technology-wise because when Fred graduated into the professional world, he was actually a minister. So he was destined to go work in a church or in community service. And I know he spent his first one or two years doing so. And he actually came up with the idea of, “I can do this on television.”
And it wasn’t so much about preaching or delivering religious messages or community service messages as opposed to saying, “I can have this medium where I can connect with individuals, particularly children, and relay messages.” And through this use of technology — which to that date, if you have any people that you know were watching television in the 50s or 60s, or maybe there are shows that you’ve seen about Fred Rogers, back then television had a lot of slapstick, right? It’s a lot of things like clowns. There were three stooges and other things like that. And he was saying this meaning can be so much more.
So he made a conscious decision that his goals and mission of what he intended to do, through connecting with people, would have a much broader amplification through television, which was the technology, never been really done before, let alone commercially or technically. And he crafted a whole genre and approach, which has held up for what, 40, 50 years, and still holds up. People will still watch those reruns across there. And he was very, very consistent. So having him as a mentor who not only talked about consistency, and being able to amplify what you do, but more importantly, embracing technology and understanding, had very difficult conversations through there.
This is important. I know, one of the things that you talked about earlier, as I said, I specialized in special effects. So when you’re in the 1980s, special effects hit the zenith at that point. Things that were happening were George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and Star Wars. I actually had the opportunity to do a project with both of them through public television. And it was an amazing experience to go ahead and do this. Of course, both of them, who did they want to meet? They wanted to meet Fred Rogers. They grew up with it, and their kids grew up with it. And I remember the four of us were having lunch off to the side of the soundstage.
And I was thinking, “Wow, okay, so I’m working in a public TV station, I will never have the money, the resources, or the reach of what Lucas is doing or Spielberg,” and I remember Fred talking to me, and just saying, “You can still be that level of impact, you just have to do that within the realm, in the circles, that you have, and coming across there.” And that’s always been a really, really interesting lesson for me. And that’s often what I talked to people about, that it’s not so much being a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond. It’s about having the impact that you can create, within the areas that you are, and that you will find mentors, and you yourself should become a mentor to help pass this message along.
Host Raj Daniels 06:52
It’s a great lesson, you mentioned that he made a conscious decision. When did you make a conscious decision to get involved with design? What drew you to design?
Corey Glickman 07:02
So really interesting question, and I will give you a very honest answer. There were there were two main influences. So first off, when I was in high school level, I was one of those students that pretty much was straight A’s, and had the ability to meet a lot of opportunities, both scholastically and athletically, and had a lot of choice of what I could do. One of those opportunities actually was in physics. And I had a professor in high school who actually got me associated with Princeton University while I was a junior in high school, and I was able to take classes in physics at Princeton while I was still going to high school.
So physics was a big deal for me because my family’s very scientific and engineering-wise. And as I was going further and further, working on quantum physics of all things, one of my mentors there was a guy named Bob Roth. And Bob Roth, again, a Star Wars connection here. He was the gentleman who worked for Lucas, who figured out the village of Tatooine, so this whole idea of, how do you create this village that doesn’t exist? That’s the city, that’s there. And they actually used physics to figure out how the camera works. And how do you do that perception and size. So to work on parts of that, right as part of physics problems, it was super, super interesting. And just as you can imagine, thinking, “this is what I want to do.” And as we started to talk more about science, we started talking about the importance of design. And he said, “You need to go to design school because design school has you think about projects in a different way across there.”
It’s very true. Design is extremely hard and complex. I ended up going to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh afterwards, and it was very good school, but it was not like a typical academic institution. Your grades didn’t matter from an academic perspective, but your ability to create, to defend your project, to be judged, and to solve organizationally through here. So if you think about things like physics, it’s often formulas, there are theorems, there’s lots of math, and there is experimentation and the whole scientific process. The design process isn’t that different, except design is a bit more control of creativity, where you say, “I have a problem to solve, what are the pieces I can create or gather? And how can I ultimately take enough control of those pieces in order to get the result that I want to get to?” And what happens with design, because it is creative in most systems, it’s very judgmental. It’s not always scientifically proved, but it’s always judged. We all know what we like and what we don’t like.
We all make decisions every day across there. So using a design process was very, very important to me. And it was very competitive. Suddenly, you are competing against all kinds of individuals, or all kinds of problem sets. And I think this actually has a lot to do with the resurgence of design thinking five, six years ago, that businesses were realizing that design is a very important organizational matter. So that’s the first reason. The second reason is a much shorter answer. I met a very beautiful girl in design school. And that had a big influence. And that’s worked out, too. I’ve been married for 40 years to her. So that’s certainly had a big play.
Host Raj Daniels 10:40
Well, congratulations. Maybe we can do another episode on designing long-lasting marriages.
Corey Glickman 10:44
There you go.
Host Raj Daniels 10:46
I’m fascinated by design. You know, offline, we were speaking, I mentioned that I had my own software company that I launched back in 2014, became really embedded in the world of UX UI or user experience, and did some reading around design. And I often wonder, maybe you have an answer to the question. But why isn’t design more emphasized in high school classes or environment? I try to tell my kids all the time that you know, look at the environment you’re in, whatever environment we’re in, or whatever you use, whether it be a spatula to cook with, or even a building, someone somewhere, for some reason has designed this object or this environment for you to be in. Why do you think it’s not more emphasized in school?
Corey Glickman 11:25
Yeah, I think that’s truly interesting. And I think it’s a great observation. I think that design at least, where you would start to get serious about it would be at a high school level, for most students, before they would make a decision to go to college. And then when they go to college, the parents saying, you really you’re going to design school? Get a job, right? But what’s really interesting about is this: when you look at schools right now, they’ll talk about STEM, right? They’ll talk about STEM programs, right? So science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. That’s what we need. And then some curriculums actually now call it STEAM, where they’re putting the arts in there.
But generally schools, I think budgetary-wise, they always think of art and music as electives. They’re things that you’re doing when you’re not taking the hardcore classes that you’re required to take across there. And yet, if you think about, especially now, how much of our life is run by designers. In the latest Marvel movie, right? Ten Rings. And like every typical movie, at the end you see literally 3000 names, going across the screen, of all the animators, the musicians, the directors, the photographers, and the rotoscope artists. And then the whole product itself was created by Disney, Marvel, and Pixar Studios. And when people aren’t watching the movie, they’re on their phones, and they’re they’re looking at social websites. And we think about how much impact designers have: the majority of our lives right now. A lot of what we’re saying is taking place. Everything that most of the generation admires is, what is that next great movie? Or what is that great entertainment, or the ability to see an amazing concert, or the fact that I have a car that behaves in a certain way — it’s autonomous, or it has a certain style? Or what are the clothes that I’m wearing? Things that we have are there.
I think it’s somewhat ironic that designers have taken over the world. But I don’t think that’s a new thing. If you think about the museum’s that we all visit, what populates most of our museums, right? If it’s not a natural history museum that’s full of dinosaurs, or perhaps other areas, it’s all about the artwork, right? Over the millenniums, that seems to be the things that society treasures the most. Even engineering, I would say, is design. So I think deep down, we notice. I think that part of the issue might be getting good designers to teach at a level beneath college. I think once you get to the college level, and university level, you could get into really great design programs. But I think it’s at the high-school level. And we don’t have enough very good designers that are teaching.
Host Raj Daniels 14:14
And to your point, you know, every part of our life is, depending on your view, either influenced by or manipulated by design. So I agree with you. I hope that as we progress, and people realize just the influence of designers in our life, and that it does start coming up early in the education system.
Corey Glickman 14:31
You know what’s surprising, too? As you know, I work for a large consulting firm, technology consulting firm Infosys. So it’s 270,000 individuals. Most of them, if you looked at them from the outside, you’d say these are technologists, right? These are engineers. These are software designers; these are business consultants. And we run very large complex programs. And we have close to 5000 designers, which is a lot of people but in 270,000-person environment, that’s a very small percentage. But I would clearly and openly say that people are always surprised, whether it’s from the outside or from either our own teams, that the people who actually are designers or design are the most organized people out there, right? They know how to run large, complex situations; they can visualize what’s going to take place, just like the great athlete can visualize what a performance would be across there. A lot of times there can be some fuzzy logic through there. But the good designers have science behind what they’re doing, too. So I have high hopes.
Host Raj Daniels 15:35
I’m glad you brought up Infosys. Can you share with the audience an overview of Infosys and your role at the organization?
Corey Glickman 15:41
Certainly. Infosys is one of the top 10 — we call it services — companies on the planet, really great origins. It started in India, in the 1970s, with a handful of money and seven individuals in Bangalore, and at the time, Bangalore was a village, not much more than a village. Now, Bangalore is one of the largest cities in the world. And that had a lot to do with Infosys, the ability of the economy, and the creation of what the company was able to do. So if you think about the first Indian companies, what was their role within the larger IT services consulting world? It was offshoring and outsourcing certain kinds of activities through here. But as these companies started to mature, it switched. It was no longer just someone who was filling a gap in a delivery cycle for a Western company. But now it was a competitor.
And fact is, is that in India, most — I don’t want to generalize, but let’s face it — there’s a lot of people who say, you’re going to become an engineer or a doctor. There’s an incredible schooling system, and an incredible work ethic, and also this huge social mandate. It’s the fourth largest economy on the planet, it’s the largest democracy. And there’s a lot of work that still has to be done there. And I think when you’re put in situations like that, the harder the problem to solve, the better the solution. So Infosys, along with several other Indian technology companies, has evolved to become very serious players of bringing innovation across there.
So without going through the history of 30 or 40 years of what these technologies could have done, all I can say is where we are now: we’re a digital transformation company. We’re in 53 countries around the planet. We have 270,000, visuals, who are doing work for almost any company that you can imagine. And that work is generally consulting and advisory, heavy, heavy technology design, both digital and physical. We have close to 20,000, what I call real engineers, these mechanical, robotic, chemical, electrical engineers, that are doing physical aspects of solutions, becoming more physical across there. We have strong consulting services, that is everything from financial obligations to supply chain, logistics, across here.
We have our own DNA paths — is actually, I’m proud to say, is net carbon neutral now for two years. So we have been a leader in the sustainability field, both for our own operations and with our clients through here. And that wasn’t something where we said, “Okay, we need to do this now because this is what’s important to the planet,” but we’ve actually done this starting in 2008, when the company was saying, we need to grow. We were in a situation that we think we have the power to change and help society. And this is true, it’s not just a line. We believe that as technologists with the ability to work with many different kinds of companies, that we should do things in a certain ethical way. And that has become very much the structure of what Infosys is about. So it is about doing technology for good. It is about having a non-Western view on on the world and what technology can do for society. You know, it’s different if you’re from a very wealthy country or scenario. You might be doing business because of profit and other things.
It doesn’t mean Infosys doesn’t have to profit; every company should and does. But there is also a large social mandate to say, “How do I create an economy for my country and for the hundreds of millions of people right now that you are directly related to,” and I think that’s part of the emphasis is heritage.
Host Raj Daniels 19:46
And your role in the organization?
Corey Glickman 19:48
So my title is global lead of sustainability and design. I had to make sure I had the design, always, in my title. Whatever I’ve done, I make sure to attach it there. But what this basically means is that I am the head of sustainability for Infosys. And we have to think of sustainability really as two pieces. So there’s this internal view that’s around our operations. There’s a group of individuals that have been around since 2008, that have looked after the company to get us to where we are. I’ve been charged with building out and externalizing our capabilities and our knowledge and continuing to grow those paths so that it serves clients. That ranges from corporations to governments, to institutions, to academic entities, on how we can deliver it. That’s one of the three roles that I have.
The second role that I have is — I incubated, a couple of years ago, what we call our smart spaces practice. And that would be city infrastructure, buildings themselves, everything from how energy is used in buildings, to how the buildings are designed, to the experiences that buildings have, to city traffic and mobility patterns. It’s another practice that I lead, and there’s a lot of overlap between sustainability in there. And then I have, once again, a third practice for which I first came to the company for. And it’s called strategic design consulting. And that one is a smaller tip of the spear group. Once again, I’m always gonna have design somehow attached to whatever I go and do, and that is a unit that cuts across the entire company. It’s a very small unit, but it does what’s called tip of the spear work. It allows us to look at opportunities that may not make business sense, or perhaps doesn’t have a clear path of of how this will benefit. But they’re important things to look at. And they generally are looking at it to say, is there a viable business model? Is there a truly feasible technology? And what would be the horizon for that? And the third, is it usable across there? And this allows us to try projects, try trends, invent trends, or create living labs in ways that we think are interesting places to go. And it really then sets up for other parts of Infosys to then see if things can be scaled. So those are three roles that I have.
Host Raj Daniels 22:08
Corey, it sounds to me, like Fred Rogers’ advice to you really came to fruition. Not only are you potentially impacting the 270,000 employees at Infosys, but by extension, I just can’t imagine the number of people they’re touching. So it sounds like what he said really stuck.
Corey Glickman 22:26
Yes, absolutely. And I’ve had several mentors, but yes, he’s the one that I would name across there and the point that you’re making about that extension. So it’s interesting: on the KPIs that I have for them are different for all three of these units. The key performance indicator for the strategic design consulting is somewhat of a revenue marker, but it’s very small, and it is much more about, are we looking at the right ideas? Are we not resting on our laurels? And are we willing to take risk? I get measured on KPIs on this one. And then also are we willing to take diversities of talent, and have that kind of thinking and try to install design beyond just talking about it? The KPIs for the smart spaces is very much a business KPI of revenue and utilization — true business metrics that you would see with any business unit, you go across there. The sustainability unit has revenue KPIs also attached to it. But the number one KPI that I actually have is, how can we positively impact 80 million lives through what we do? And that’s the goal for this year. Okay. So that’s kind of that extension you’re talking about. 270,000 people, all the companies that they work for, all the people that we work through, the companies themselves, what they can do, how can we start causing that flywheel to take place? And it has to be in a measurable path or pattern across there. So that’s kind of the Fred Rogers lessons coming back again,
Host Raj Daniels 24:00
Sounds like a great KPI. 80 million lives.
Corey Glickman 24:03
Yeah, that’s for this year. I can’t wait to see you next year’s KPI.
Host Raj Daniels 24:08
So let’s move to the smart spaces practice. What does that look like? Does it come in form of an engagement with the client? Can you kind of frame that for us?
Corey Glickman 24:17
Sure. So let’s define what a smart space is first. So a smart space could be a building, it could be something indoors. It could also be something outdoors. It could be a campus, it could be a sports arena. It could be a transit system. It could be a space station.So how do you take a space and the data and intelligence within that space so that things start to automate right through here? So if I think of a space in three areas, in smart spaces, one would be: what can I do with assets? And that’s whether it’s IoT assets, or other pieces of technology that can start to automate systems in that building, so that they can become optimized, whether it’s for safety, whether it’s dealing with COVID protocols, whether it’s dealing with ingress and egress patterns of how people can enter a new building, but ultimately, it’s about productivity.
The second area has to do with user experience. So I’m sure we all hopefully have had the opportunity to go into buildings where it’s easy to find where you’re going, the elevators work in a timely manner, the security is there. That makes you feel safe and comfortable in who you’re working with and the areas that you’re in. The ability for no breakdowns to happen within the equipment around you. The ability to go into a conference room where it’s automatically set up for you. These are smart attributes that are about things to help you with your productivity and comfort levels.
And then there’s the third column, which would be in the sustainability category that says, I’m running renewable energies, if possible. I am getting 100% reclamation of my water. I have zero plastics. There’s just a litany of sustainability components. So by using data and having these buildings start to automate, you can imagine that companies that own buildings or campuses want to do this because, A, it helps sustainability. But more importantly, it’s driving productivity, and it makes it where people want to work. And it’s just smart how these buildings work across there. Think of these buildings as just giant sets of networks.
It’s as if you’re inside a smartphone now. You know, we use our smartphones, and we marvel at all the things we could do on it. Well, imagine if your whole building can behave in ways to support and amplify what you do. So when you do these engagements, which is what your original question was, it really kind of depends on the facility, right? So if you’re building something for a tenant, or an office building, it is around safe productivity and the ability for you to run a business if you’re a bank, or another kind of company. But what if you’re a factory? Those also qualify. So how do you create a factory that is thinking for itself, having certain levels of robotics, but also understanding how to optimize what humans can do across there. And that’s become even more of a challenge as we’re looking at the complexities of supply chains right now. Supply chains are closely related to it.
And then there’s, say, another scenario. We do a lot with sports arenas and this idea of large populations coming in for specific times and events to have the best experience possible. And that could be the sports feature that they’ve come to see, it could be perhaps an entertainment value venue that they’ve seen. How do they locate where their seat is? How do they get the best food service? How do they know if their bathrooms are safe and clean? How do they locate, quickly, others that they want to meet? How do they enter that building? You know, some of these sports venues actually have train stations that are underneath, running, so how to sync up your tickets to time of your train. There’s lots of things that you can do. And then there’s the whole facilities management site for any of these places. The owners and the operators of these facilities want command and control centers so that they can optimize the experience and create a more valuable asset and experience across there. It’s a huge area.
If we think about cities themselves, and the importance of what’s happening right now — we all talk about pollution, or we need more things that are sustainable and green. But we also want less congestion and traffic. We want to make sure that there’s safety. Buildings themselves are the biggest thing that were impacted when COVID hit because we couldn’t go back into the workplace. So how was that all going to, you know, sort itself out through there? The energy signatures of buildings, and as I said before, or at least earlier, the creation of a building to them, the operation of a building, that’s about 40% of your greenhouse gases that are that are coming out.
Now, if you take transportation, whether it’s transportation of what was needed to either create the buildings, or the transportation to use the buildings, that kicks up another 30% of the greenhouse gases. So your cities, if you can solve this in an intelligent way, you’re going to solve 70% of what we’re all trying to do getting towards carbon net neutral, zero, other things are very, very difficult. But buildings and transportation are key. Smart buildings have this ability to have an immediate impact and they always have throughout history.
A smart system 1000 years ago would have been putting fountains in Rome so that you had clean public water in central places. The first clock towers that were put back in medieval times, so people knew what time of day it was, and they knew you know how to have longer workdays. We’re starting to see education take place. So we go through various times in our history. And if you think about buildings in our own time, they’re the laggards, right? We apply technology, on and on, through our devices, through our computers, through our cars, through our homes, with NES and things like that. But buildings have been a laggard. But the buildings are where we spend something like 90% of our time, I think that’s the last statistic I saw, was that we spend 90% of our time in buildings.
We spend 6% of our time in transportation and cars, and we spend 3% of our time outside, which is kind of depressing if you think about it. So the fact that buildings are lagging in technology, and the fact that we can make them smarter, which just benefits us all, it’s about time.
Host Raj Daniels 30:47
Now, speaking of laggards, you mentioned smart spaces. And I think first pillar was assets, you gave an example of IoT. The second was user experience. The third one, sustainability. How have you seen the attitudes from leadership and leadership in organizations change, specifically, when it comes to sustainability?
Corey Glickman 31:06
Yeah. It’s a great question, and I still think it has to be resolved. I think we’ve certainly have seen fits and starts of sustainability. And where it gets to the board level or leadership. I’m very fortunate that I worked for a company that understood this back in 2008, when we really started looking at it, and started our journey. It took 10 years for us to achieve our carbon neutrality. We made a commitment 2011, after we had to find the problem statement with the UN. So this is actually five, six years before the Paris agreements, that we start taking carbon out of our systems, going across there. And so it was a 10-year journey for us. I think that with world events, part of it is political.
But also I think COVID also brought to light, what happens when a situation doesn’t recognize borders, or a country’s wealth as much, as opposed to what impacts everybody. No matter how wealthy you might be as an economy, if you don’t solve it for the world, it’s never going to be solved. And it’s going to continue. So I think that lesson was understood, along with the fact that when we really had to say, I can take technology and innovation, and come up with a vaccine, or come up with protocols and governance, to start to control an emergency situation like this, people are really smart. And the ability to come up with that show that we can do these things.
I think at the same time, the imperatives that we’ve seen from climate change in particular, the quality of life, and the moves of large moves of populations has also alerted companies to say, where should they be located? Where’s that workforce going to be? One of the products that are going to be able to activate in a supply chain of value, coming across there, was a big motivation. I think in Europe, in particular, when they formally announced that board compensation was going to be tied to ESG metrics — so that’s ESG, environment, social and governance, which is our definition of sustainability — then it really started to matter, right? Because now as a board member, you are having influencers that are saying companies must start behaving in certain ways.
When you look at the economy right now, traditionally economies, after a downturn, will either build out in two ways: either it’ll be the infrastructure, which we’re hearing a lot about right now, or it’ll be military, which says, “Okay, we’re going to beef up our ability to have our way.” And I think this time around with infrastructure, we’re saying, “Guess what? Sustainability has to be there.”
We have to look at renewables. We have to understand the advances of what’s happening with mobility. You need to understand the implications of coastal changes in water levels because that’s where most major cities are located. 94% population lives within 100 miles of the coast. So what happens if the water rises up two or three feet? We’re all facing big questions.
So I think companies are realizing that in order to stay relevant, in order to attract workforces, in order to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, that mandate has now reached the board level. And for sustainability, there are really two ways to look at it. It’s sometimes referred to as scope one, two, and three. But it’s two ways. One is, what do you do with your own operations? What are you doing for your own company in order to become more sustainable? And then the second major part is, what do I do with my supply chain and who I get involved with, whether I’m creating things to that supply chain, or whether I’m delivering through that supply chain? That is that requirement with sustainability.
And when I refer to those three scopes, that first scope is your operations. It’s everything that you do within your buildings, with your people, and all that’s across there. Scope two is, what is the energy and carbon output that you’re dealing with? So do I choose to use renewable energies? Do I have certain rules around transportation of how people come in? Those are scope twos. Scope threes are everything in your supply chain that says all of your suppliers will meet certain standards so that you all kind of head into this carbon neutrality zone of decarbonization, or climate control in other areas. And that’s where it gets really complex. But businesses are making conscious decisions of who they work with and who they do not work with because now the compensation is tied to it. Now that there’s huge contracts out there for infrastructure rebuilds, now that the population of workers are saying, “I’ll choose this product over this other product because I feel it’s more sustainable,” it really has hit a crescendo right now, and hopefully, we’ll stick with it.
Host Raj Daniels 36:14
Let’s double click on scope three. I think it’s called all other indirect emissions from activities. How does Infosys — first of all, probably a designer’s dream — how does Infosys help companies get a view on those additional emissions or regulation requirements?
Corey Glickman 36:31
Yeah, part of it is through, certainly assessments, and it’s certainly through big data problem sets. But I think what’s more interesting about this question is, if you think about the SDGs. So the 17, SDGs. They are the UN guidelines. And companies can choose which of those SDGs they want to do. So some companies will form alliances, to say we agree to these together for certain reasons, but it’s still optional which ones you choose. And then you have this option of saying, and how much of this will I do? So what I mean by that is, if I take the SDG on greenhouse emissions, and carbon emissions, I can say, “Yeah, but my goal will be to reduce it by 20, or 30%.” There’s no law saying you must reduce it by 90%. So it’s kind of optional, what you’re saying. So one of the challenges that companies have, we all have is, how do I select my metrics? And then how do I report out on those metrics in a recognizable form? And it’s one of the first big challenges.
Why Infosys often will work with companies and why there’s, I think, a large trust, is the fact that when we say that we’re net carbon neutral, we have done that without purchasing credits. We’ve done this through technology, we’ve done this through choosing different kinds of renewable energy. We’ve done this through our building designs, as I’ve talked about, we’ve done this through community, corporate social responsibility programs to boost up economies. And this allows us to get to our carbon neutral component. So when companies are saying they need to look at that scope three, which is very, very complex, because if you think about scope three as that supply chain, they’re saying, “I need to remove carbon out of my supply chain.” How can you get enough information out of your supply chain that you can actually prove that you’re doing it right? Just because they’re in your supply chain doesn’t mean you’re gonna have access to all the data that’s really up to an agreement that you would go forward with.
Then how do you verify that? And truly, for sustainability, it has to be third-party verified in order for it to pass the auditing across there. So what we’ve done is we’ve created a set of tools that are basically big data tools that would allow for the collection of that data, whether it’s put in by hand, but hopefully it’s more through IoT devices or automation so that data can be aggregated, and that you can get a true picture of things. And take another big step down. Some data is very quantitative in nature. So environmental data, greenhouse gases, energy, signatures, climate.
Those are tangible things. But sustainability, as I said before, is also social and governance. So when you’re at a social level and you’re talking about diversity, or inclusivity, or if you’re getting governance, those could be more qualitative in matters. And then it becomes very subjective, how that’s being reported out across there. And so what we tried to do is, just like with the Digital Transformation Program, which was years ago, and until you can move those into centralized ERP systems of record, they’re not quantifiable. So we try to help companies take their digital agendas and the kinds of information that we can get out of them in that system and move it into centralized systems so that they can be auditable cross there. That’s the theory behind it. That is the activity. Where this gets very complex, though, is if you think of what supply chains are in sustainability. It’s about circularity. Circularity is basically saying this little waste in is a little waste out, as we think down that entire supply chain. And that goes to everything from the energy to when you’re thinking about designing a product.
How do I have think about reuse and recycling from the beginning? How do I think about transport? How do I think about reverse logistics? How do I know if the companies that I’m working for are compliant — and they’re all going to fumble and stumble, and we do, too. So how do they deal with resilience across there?
So the thing that we’ve come up with are lightweight ways of collecting data that can work on top of other systems, that can be audited properly. And that could be used for evaluations, but it also can be used for measurements. The other thing that we have done is created assessments for large supply chains, to at least say, this is the baseline.
This is where your suppliers are: tier one, tier two, tier three, wherever they are in their journeys. And then what can we do over a period of time to move them up the value chain, or to take them out of the supply chain, if it’s not going to be a good partner for them? And then have the ability for not just that data collection, but to set a group goal that says, “Out of your supply chain, over a year or two years, we’re going to take out 20 or 30% of the carbon across there.” And we’ll do that on a performance-based contract that basically says, “We’ll take the supply chain will get you to this goal. And if we don’t do it to this level, then we don’t get compensated in proper way.” And what starts to happen is, is that you start getting alignment of the bigger picture. And instead of just playing the game of, I get credits, or I’m offsetting my carbon in certain ways, you actually are physically taking carbon out of the system across there.
Surprisingly, you can achieve this — we’ve seen this now in three to six months, if with the right kinds of opportunities come across there. I talk to companies, and I see these goals, and they say, “As an individual company, we’re setting a goal for 2040 or 2050, to take out 50% of our carbon.” That’s very realistic for large companies that do a lot of materials. But when you’re in an information or technology culture, and everybody’s into technology, now, we were able to do this in 10 years, to take our entire company through this.
And our supply chain. I believe — having started that in 2011 and achieving that two years ago — what we know now and with the technologies that we have now, I believe you can achieve this in seven years. Easily shave three years off that cycle, if you have the will to do this. And it’s not even so much of a large investment because these programs themselves are usually funded. There’s a lot of mechanisms in the investment community right now to support this whole movement.
Host Raj Daniels 43:08
It sounds like at the core of what you’re speaking about is a shift in thinking. And I had a guest on the show two years ago. And you know, he spoke about circular thinking. And his question which he poses to his clients is: what if you start out with the statement, “We are going to have no waste?” There’s going to be no waste. So no cradle to grave, all cradle to cradle? And if we start with that thinking, where can we go from here?
Corey Glickman 43:34
I agree with that completely. And one of the keys I’m sure many of your listeners or viewers have heard about is science-based targets. So these are targets that have scientific foundations. The key to doing a science-based target of saying, “I’m going to take out carbon,” — and it has to be scientifically proven — is you take an ambitious goal, and it’s just on the edge of impossible. But you take this scientific, ambitious goal, and it forces you to say, “Why are all the things that I can do?” Do I need to really put in solar fields? Can I find other ways of energy? Can I really rethink not using plastics at all? Can I perhaps take my leftovers from my supply chain and move it to somebody else’s supply chain, where they can use these products across here? And unless you strive for those ambitious goals, you’re never going to achieve it. And you probably won’t get perfect. You probably will fall short in some areas, but you’ll make much more progress than if you just set a low-hanging fruit target across there. So I agree with that with completely with circularity. Absolutely.
Host Raj Daniels 44:44
And again, it sounds like a dream for a design thinker.
Corey Glickman 44:47
It is, and I’ll tell you what’s interesting, I think, about design. I think one of the things that we do, we know ultimately for things to really work — I keep on using the word science and maybe it’s because of my background — but it has to scientifically work. If the science isn’t there, you can’t capture and store carbon, or you can’t really create safe air quality environments. It’s just not something to say, “Well, I think I can do this, I’m going to write some software.” There has to be scientific proof that the technology works through there. But the majority of the world doesn’t have access to the scientists, or to the level that you could say, “I’m putting scientists on my staff to go do this.” So I believe that companies like Infosys are a great bridge of both real science and then what I call practical calculus, which says, “How do I take all of those equations and all that hard science and turn that into usable formulas and frameworks that can be deployed by large parts of the population,” whether they’re technologists, designers, business folks, data scientists. If we can take those formulas and make them usable, so that inventors can move fast, and actually solve for this, you need both. And I think that’s often the bridge of what we do. When we label, when we talk about sustainability, we call it practical sustainability: things that you actually can do that can happen in a timely enough manner across there and have immediate impact.
Host Raj Daniels 46:21
So speaking of usable frameworks and practical sustainability, you have a book coming out in a couple of months. It’s called Practical Sustainability, Circular Commerce, Smarter Spaces, and Happier Humans. What do you hope to accomplish with the book?
Corey Glickman 46:34
First of all, thank you for the plug. It’s always appreciated. But yeah, so what? The goal of the book is that we actually have this idea of, how do we share frameworks? And how do we create the narratives around what we’re talking about here? So often, the ability to go ahead and execute on what we’re talking about, for sustainability, or large problem sets, can be very daunting and complex. So the idea of the book was to say, look. There are things that we have from experience. And we’ve talked to — I ticked at least 30 renowned external folks.
This is an Infosys book, actually. It’s a book that myself and Jeff Cavanaugh co-wrote and co-designed. We believe that we can make a difference by sharing knowledge, and that there were frameworks that we have seen, both from our business situations and from science institutions that we’ve worked with, and then having ourselves work for a company that achieved these goals, that said, “Let’s share this knowledge as much as we can.” But it couldn’t be a deep research book, technically, because that would take years and years to do to do it right. And we said, what can we do as designers, as consultants, as technologists, that says, “You know what? I can help you figure out how to take out that carbon with realistic steps that you can go through.” So the goal of the book was to create these narratives. Sustainability is large.
That title itself; it’s maybe not the best title in the world because it has so many words in it. We said, three or four things that we can impact were circular commerce, something that every company, every country, and every government has to understand. So let’s address that. Let’s address spaces because, as I said before, everybody uses spaces, and that would have a huge impact for everybody. And of course, how do we make sure that humans are in the equation and that they’re benefiting from it?
And so we kept it to that scope. And we’ve put in close to 60 frameworks, that are usable right now, that you could take, and you could run an exercise. And you can say, this is how I could think about starting a program. Or, this is how carbon economy would work. Or, if I were to invest in a smart space, what would it take to measure my space? What would it take to actually retrofit or build a new space? And when could I see my ROI on this? And then we’re the steps across there. And I’m hoping that it will be by several levels. One is the fact that if you’re a practitioner that is fortunate enough to be able to deliver these kinds of services — it’s an honor, actually — it would give you frameworks so that you could then build upon yourself.
Secondly, if you are, say, a city manager or a mayor, and you’re saying, “I have to make decisions around energy policy,” or understand what the infrastructure bills are about, this will help you, at least hopefully, make some decisions and understand what you’re getting into across there. And then hopefully, the most important thing that I hope happens out of this is that we’ve had several large academic institutions contribute. They have high interest in this, and they’re talking about creating courseware based off of these components so that this next generation of students — kind of going back to, why aren’t there enough designers? So how do we start training and building that, next set of workforce around sustainability? And I believe that these frameworks will allow these institutions to create courses, eventually, that will take off and hopefully build this next generation of thinkers for us.
Host Raj Daniels 50:15
Well, I look forward to reading it when it comes out. So I’m gonna get to the crux of our conversation. You’ve mentioned a few times this passion for design throughout your career. Now you’re engaging in sustainability. Why sustainability? What drew you to that? Why is that important to you?
Corey Glickman 50:31
Well, first off, I think most of us are very drawn to sustainability. I think there are very few people on the planet who would say that sustainability is not an attractive idea, or concept, or something that you want to be on the right side of the ledger on. I’ll tell you what actually drew me into this current role. It was given to me.
So I was working on my smart spaces practices of this practice. Then, I get this call, saying, “Hey, we need you to take over the sustainability.” I have a penchant for building things. I build businesses and build units, and saying, “Yeah, this is something that we think you can do very well.” And I was thinking, this is really excellent. It’s something that I feel fortunate enough to say, I’m working on things that I can actually maybe explain to somebody now. in our field of technology, often we’re working on these systems that you really can’t explain to your relatives or your friends, what is it that you do? And you can actually tell people, “Well, I’m reducing greenhouse gases,” or “I’m taking plastics out of the ocean,” or “I am using renewable energies.”
Those are the easy answers. The more complex answers are actually, “What are you doing with diversity in social equity?” Or, “How are you dealing with governance on boards coming across there?” So these become very complex sets of problems. And this kind of goes back to design. So we do, or I do — and we put this forward — is this idea of applied systems design. How do you take complex systems and start to have them organized and behave in certain patterns? How do you break a problem down? That’s both physical, digital, social, environmental, all of these. Governance-wise. How can you start to align these so that you can achieve certain goals?
So sustainability is not just such a relevant important thing to be working on, but it’s an extremely interesting, complex set of problems to solve for. And unlike other waves of technology that I’ve been fortunate to been involved in, usually, as technology evolves and becomes more advanced, you will find a simplification happen. We try to get velocity, we try to make low code, no code, we make our interfaces easier to use for adoption. What happens with sustainability is like, every time we solve one piece of this, it’s like throwing a pebble in the pond, and all these other ripples start to happen. You’re saying, “Okay, I’ve just moved this from here to here. And that caused 10 more big things I need to solve through there.” And every time you do that, it happens again, and when I relate to other individuals, my peers in the field here, we talk about a couple of events that we see that are very common. Everybody agrees that sustainability is huge.
We also recognize that it’s not like it’s the next technology wave. It’s not like okay, well, here’s Cloud coming, or here’s mobility coming in, there’s going to be a whole bunch of new players and new technologies. Sustainability is more about, “This is the age of sustainability,” where everything about our lives and business are there. So it goes beyond traditional ways that technology companies think about things, and every kind of company thinks about it. The other thing that’s been really amazing is that almost every company is placing some pretty serious resources behind their sustainability. And usually at the senior management level, at the CEO level, COO level, Chief Sustainability Officer level, Chief of Procurement level, those individuals that I have met in all these organizations are amazing individuals. They are not just amazing because of the knowledge they have, but each company seems to be putting somebody in place, who is also highly, highly competent and successful in creating organizational change, or has built major, major parts of businesses. So unlike in past times, where a technology company might have to educate or help guide a company to say, “How do I make good technology decisions?” Or, “What will this technology do for me, and where’s the business value?” We are meeting sets of individuals who get this and who not only get why companies do this, but have been empowered to make companies do this. And that has been a remarkable set of individuals.
It’s like almost every first discussion you have, you might start off thinking, this is a discussion. Are we going to do business together? It automatically turns into a 360-degree relationship, where we’re just explaining what common goals are, are our companies good fits for each other, do we share shared values? Those become the important discussions across there. And that’s been fascinating.
Host Raj Daniels 55:18
Sounds like it’s going to be a lifelong endeavor.
Corey Glickman 55:21
I’m not the first one to say this. I’m going to say, at least for myself, for the next 15 years, it will be the busiest and most interesting 15 years. And I would say that there’s a lot of work that’s going to take place. And I’d say, at least once a month, I hear of a project or a concept that I never would have dreamed of before. And saying, we’re going to do what? And it’s just fascinating to try to solve those problems and then realize that they have a real possibility of actually taking place. It’s really considered an amazing position and opportunity.
What people need to realize is that these roles don’t just reside with me. I’m Chief Sustainability Officer in the company. Everybody in the company has the ability to be that impactful player. It goes back to the Fred Rogers thing. Do what you can at the level that you can, and there’s no stopping you. And everybody, every day, can do something that moves it in this direction, whether it’s in their personal life, or whether it’s in their business life. There are no rules that are telling you that you shouldn’t be doing something in this direction.
Host Raj Daniels 56:33
I totally agree with that. Now, it sounds like you spent quite a bit of time in introspection. You’ve had quite a scenic journey on your career. What are a couple of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned about yourself on your journey?
Corey Glickman 56:47
Yeah, so I would say, I’d probably keep these words as maybe just general rules to live by, painful lessons learned. So often, when I talk to people about things that I’ve learned, I think one of the most valuable skills that a leader or manager can have, and a leader should be at all levels, is the ability to make decisions. And this is not an original concept or thought, but it’s something I thoroughly believe in.
So the best thing that you can do is make the right decision, the second best thing you can do is make the wrong decision, and the third thing that you can do is not make a decision at all, that’s worse than making the wrong decision. And so often I think about that, we’ll go through that. I also constantly think about how how to reinvent yourself every three years, whether that means you have to move to another company, or just reinventing yourself within that company. I know that we have a tendency to say, well, “What’s my career path?” And you know, we work to certain KPIs and goals across there. But I’ve never in my career, ever worried about what my next role was going to be. I have always been able to create my roles, and I found other individuals can do that, too.
You can make yourself be very valuable to a group of people or to companies and also align it to things that you want to be doing, or things that you think are important through there. So I think it’s really important. I think it’s also important not to freeze in time. So if you get very successful at something, you need to always look for a new challenge.
And that’s part of that reinvention part. Often, we’re victims of our own success. We tend to do things very well, we get continued work in that same direction because we’re known for doing those things well, and then that’s what you end up doing. So how do you not freeze in time? You should step aside sometimes, and let others take over the lead. Even if you might think you might know how to do it better, that’s never really the case. We think about it when we’re most productive. I know I kind of hit my stride somewhere between the ages of 27 and 35. That was many years ago, where I could say I was having an impact and getting enough control that I felt I could take credit or work with teams to do so. And I think sometimes we forget, as we have longer careers now in society, that there’s a whole generation of individuals that are coming out that have to be given leadership roles. And you don’t have to wait till you’re 45 or 50 to say, “I can lead a group or division.”
So it’s important not to freeze in time. And it’s important to, I’d say, manage up and manage down. Make sure the people that are working for you have the incredible opportunities that you’ve had. And then, how do you manage upwards? To constantly push management up above you, throw a line somewhere, to continue to change as needs to go across there. Another lesson is just because you’re capable of doing something doesn’t mean you should always do it. Right. There’s, there’s lessons there that I won’t go into. Sometimes, we’re a company that feels we can build everything and anything — and I think we can — but doesn’t always make sense to do so. So I think that’s important, to understand ecosystems. I think, also, nothing is ever perfect. It never will be perfect.
Often, when I’m asking groups to solve hackathons, and you’re teaching with students and grad students, we’ll give them a problem set to solve in three or four days. That’ll be very complex. And I’ll say, “first thing is to make sure your technology actually works,” which is kind of against what you think designers would say. But if the technology is not working, then everything else won’t work because you can’t trust the data or anything that’s happening across there. The second one is to realize that once you start solving for problems, that you’re never gonna have enough resources or time that you thought you were going to have.
So you’re going to have to think your way through that. And if you do it, you’re gonna end up with a better design anyway because you’re forced to. And then the third is to make sure that your ideas are big enough and bold enough that they’re going to survive all the challenges along the way. And that’s what’s going to keep it going across there. So if you understand that nothing is ever perfect, and those are the realities of life, I think you’ll do pretty well in most things you try to do.
Just one more. So diversity and inclusion. I know those are hot words right now because of sustainability and what we’re looking at from an ESG perspective. But I made a conscious decision, after working for some of the world’s largest corporations, to join a company that wasn’t Western-based or Western European-based. And I intentionally joined a company that had a very different culture, because I felt that it was time for me to look at the world differently. And I would recommend that to everybody, that you should be constantly looking to challenge yourself and see through other people’s eyes of what’s going on through there. And be very open to it. And I think you’ll grow better for it. So those would be the lessons that I’ve learned.
Host Raj Daniels 1:01:42
Corey, all great lessons: make sure your ideas are big enough, bold enough and challenge yourself. I wish you great success with the book, and I look forward to catching up with you again soon.
Corey Glickman 1:01:52
Well, thank you, Raj. I really appreciate the opportunity to have this conversation.
Before we go, I’m excited to share that we’ve launched the Bigger Than Us comic strip, The Adventures of Mira and Nex
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