In a previous article, we discussed how executives must adapt to the impending reality of automation in our workplaces to capitalise on the opportunity this disruption presents. Here, we emphasise how, if executives plan correctly, human capital can become more useful than it has ever been before.
The nature of contemporary work has been shaped, indelibly, by the consequences of the Industrial Revolution. While this former reality is now quite foreign to most organisations, its legacy endures: our work remains, to some extent, menial.
In offices across Australia, we have highly intelligent university graduates filling out forms, ticking boxes and typing documents. The best minds and the hardest workers are, for at least some time in their careers, spending their working days doing the mindless but necessary jobs that keep our organisations running smoothly.
This is true even at the highest levels; all of us, at one point or another, do uninspiring, ultimately insignificant jobs that just have to be done.
I think most people would lament this condition. Imagine if our best and our brightest didn’t need to whittle away their days on these tasks. Imagine what they could achieve. Your entire organisation would be different. The ideas and positive energy would reach levels never seen before. Without the chains of menial work to hold them down, your team members could devote all of their focus into what they are good at.
This is what makes the trepidation surrounding the AI revolution so baffling.
A survey from Pew Research finds that people are more than twice as likely to be anxious about the automation of menial tasks (72%) than optimistic (33%).
People are scared that robots have come to take their jobs. While this is absolutely true, it shouldn’t be frightening. It should be regarded as an opportunity to reimagine the jobs humans do. To unlock a potential that we have never before been able to access.
Research conducted by Erik Brynjolfsson and Daniel Rock, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, suggests that AI will not leave people jobless. It will merely redefine their job descriptions. They say, in conclusion, that AI should encourage “the redesign of jobs and re-engineering of business processes” so that people are able to utilise their uniquely human characteristics to perform tasks that AI cannot.
In essence, AI is like having a set of butlers and cleaners working at all hours at your house. They do those little pesky jobs that take up a lot of your time so that you are able to focus on doing the more important work.
Paul Daugherty and James Wilson from the Harvard Business Review use the case study of AI in call centres to prove this point. An anonymous organisation had a customer complaints process that involved their workers redirecting customers to other workers who specialised in the area to which a specific complaint related. This was time-consuming and led to long queues. The AI system categorised the complaints before they reached the human workers so each person was only faced with complaints related to their specific area of expertise. The result was much improved efficiency and customer satisfaction.
What should be abundantly clear by now to anyone in a position of executive leadership is that the future of work requires proactivity.
Every organisation will adapt to the AI revolution. Naturally, they will enjoy the benefits that come with this organic growth. What sets organisations apart, however, is their leaders’ ability to locate unseen benefits and ensure their workplace is at a relative advantage when the change hits by being prepared to capitalise.
The organisation of the past is narrow-minded and limits their understanding of work to menial tasks.
The organisation of the future sees their human workforce as capable of more than robots.
The unseen benefit of the AI Revolution is that it is the humans, not the robots, who will rise up.
Complete leaders will adapt and prepare accordingly.
Adaptability is a pillar of executive leadership. Using advanced analytics and big data, the Complete Leader Program hones in on participants’ agility and flexibility. Please contact Melinda Fell for more information.