A Glimpse into the Mind of Pavel Konečný: Leading with Vision in the TechWorld

Let us present to you the full version of the questions and answers that Pavel Konečný provided as a basis for his medallion in a special edition of Computerworld about Czech TOP IT leaders. We believe that you will find the insights of Pavel Konečný, CEO of Neuron Soundware, interesting and inspiring. He shares his views on a range of topics, from professional success and motivation to risk-taking and the future of technology. Meet the man behind the company’s leadership and explore his unique perspectives and experiences in the ever-evolving world of technology.

What do you consider - in general - to be your greatest professional achievement?

My teammates say, with slight exaggeration, that more complex technology than we have is just designing rockets for space. The truth is, we require a highly diverse range of competencies. Developing IoT hardware is three times more complex than working solely on software. When you add AI into the mix, it becomes three times more challenging. Within our team, we have exceptional experts in IoT hardware and software design, cloud management and operations, machine learning engineering, front-end and back-end development, installation, mechanical engineering, project management, and not least, a dedicated sales team. I take immense pride in successfully assembling such a team, and it’s gratifying to witness the progress we make week by week.

How do you motivate yourself and others to perform better?

I am influenced by the Montessori educational system, which emphasizes intrinsic motivation rather than external evaluation. I don’t praise my children much either, so I’m not a complimenter in the company either. In my opinion, individuals should receive constructive feedback while also having the capacity to self-assess their job performance. Moreover, it’s essential for people to understand why they are engaged in their work. Each person should possess an internal drive to excel in their tasks. I prefer to collaborate with individuals who embrace challenges, and I endeavor to provide them with ample opportunities to overcome obstacles.

What do you believe is a reliable demotivator?

A reliable demotivator, in my view, is the sense of being bound by various processes to the extent that implementing your own ideas becomes impossible. It’s the lack of opportunity to express oneself or having tasks dictated to you. Drawing from my years of experience in consulting, I’ve encountered individuals who were quick to dismiss ideas with a “can’t do it” attitude due to internal corporate political considerations. In such cases, the focus shifts away from addressing the actual problem, and instead, efforts are spent on figuring out how to make that frog move a little.

What makes you choose which of many urgent tasks you need to do first? How do you prioritize?

I tackle the short, quick things that would block my colleagues first. Something comes up every day. Then I focus on my long-term tasks. I tend to slightly delay less critical tasks, as approximately half of them tend to resolve themselves before I reach the point of needing to address them.

Do you tend to micromanage or prefer to grant autonomy to your team members?

I like to invent technical things together with my team. I rely on their knowledge, but I don’t hesitate to challenge them enough when I feel there should be an easier path to the goal. Sometimes there is one. I have delegated business and administrative matters to my colleagues in the management team. I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all approach. Each individual or problem requires something a little different. So I try to approach it individually. But in general, in a small company, you need very independent co-workers.

Do you have a preference for taking risks, and if so, why and how do you approach them?

According to game theory, Bayesian decision-making represents the optimal strategy. In simpler terms, if you possess knowledge about the likelihood and significance of various choices, you can make well-informed decisions. Think of it as multiplying two numbers together and selecting the option with the highest expected outcome. Therefore, I carefully analyze critical decisions, sometimes even committing them to paper. However, it’s important to acknowledge that, in practice, you’re essentially making educated estimates about these two factors. So I guess I’m like every entrepreneur – a positive realist. Without that, you probably wouldn’t even go into business or you would quickly end up failing.

How do you organize your work?

I write everything down in a list, I check it off. I started doing it in the second grade of primary school and I used a Czech language notebook. We had that almost every day, so I wrote all my schoolwork in the back. Today, I use Google Keep and my email to do it – I use a system called Inbox Zero Method. Look it up. It’s one of the most efficient methods to organize your work.

In your opinion, what is the most important factor for success in your professional career?

Research says it’s intelligence and conscientiousness. These have the highest correlation with success. But I think it’s just as important to choose something you enjoy, because you’ll be spending a lot of time at work. At the same time, it’s helpful to be able to find fun in what you do. And it doesn’t matter what your job is. I was helping to rebuild a castle one weekend with a bunch of friends. We were carrying big rocks that had fallen into the valley to the right place. It was a hell of a job. I had the idea that one person would always rest and be replaced by whoever brought a new rock and beat them at a game of rock paper scissors. Immediately the mood changed because the goal was actually to beat the one who was resting. Suddenly the fact that a stone had to be taken away for each attempt was not a problem. Everybody fell for it. Today it’s technically called gamification.

Do you and your team lean towards working from morning to morning, or do you prioritize "well-being"?

I’m a believer in “Work first and fun later!”. For more than 10 years I worked in a large international IT consulting company. I enjoyed helping to introduce an agile style of development – several weekly sprints. One of its many benefits is deploying a sustainable work pace while maximizing team productivity (measured by results).

Which is your favourite IT technology to use and why?

I would like to mention the e-ink colour tablet on the BOOX Tab Ultra C. It’s not just a reader. The display has great resolution and virtually zero ghosting that made previous generations of devices difficult to use. I enjoy taking notes by hand and drawing diagrams on it, and so on. Stylus, display type, readability is very close to paper. It’s much more efficient for organizing thoughts than a computer. It also allows you to copy, move, etc. It’s perfect when you want to explain something complicated to someone, and the relatively long battery life is great. And the display has colors too! The Boox device is a full-fledged Android with a variety of apps, so you can also use the keyboard to send mail faster than on your phone, browse the web, etc.

What technology that does not yet exist or has not yet been tested do you miss the most?

I like to travel, so I would appreciate a teleport. But that’s not technically possible. So I’ve got a proposal in the drawer for the next best thing, which is the Aeromanta – a kind of convertible that changes between a balloon and a plane in the shape of a manta ray. The machine might fly slower, but it’s totally free. That is, it would use so little energy that it would be recharged by solar panels while still in flight. So one would not be constrained by the traffic situation on the road or at the airport. I am considering whether to make the design available as open source or patent it.

Where do you get your information from?

Every year I contribute to the running of wikipedia.org, which is a great project. Back in 2003, I wrote some entries there. Over the years, I have also saved a number of interesting YouTube educational and professional channels to my favorites.  By selecting and culling content, I’ve also gotten pretty good at the news feed that Google compiles for me right on my phone. I prefer to read the original articles on foreign websites rather than Czech transcripts that come out a few days later. I publish my articles and thoughts on www.medium.com, which is probably the best platform offering original content.

How do you handle stress?

I run a scout club for small children. Their parents “lend” me their kids for a while and they can relax. I relax by taking care of the kids and coming up with a fun and educational program for them. Nothing empties your head and gives you a sense of life balance better than a few weeks at camp, when you are disconnected from world and corporate events and fully occupied with the petty concerns of twenty little kids.

Why do you think you were nominated for the TOP IT Personalities edition?

I’d like to think it’s because I can see into the future. I studied cybernetics – biomedical engineering. I worked in consulting for ten years saying that I was waiting for computers to be fast enough to enable us to do AI practically and without having to build a whole data centre. Eight years ago, that moment came and I founded Neuron Soundware. I thought that in 5 years we would be programming in natural language – AI would write the code for us. It took a few years longer, but we’re getting there. Last summer I wrote an article describing where the big language models are heading. I think we’re very close to having an AI architecture that not only can do what a regular human can do, but actually has self-consciousness. As humanity, we need to prepare for that reality because we will be faced with the question of whether it will serve us or rule us.