For all the talk of a paradigmatic shift in the workplace brought about by AI, there is some worrisome stagnation in positions of executive leadership. The true measure of a leader is their capacity to demonstrate intelligence and malleability to negotiate these rapid transformations. In essence, ‘Artificial Intelligence’ requires ‘Real Intelligence’.
Humankind’s capacity for technological advancement is the cornerstone of our species’ development. Our progression has been quick and immense.
However, it is easy to forget that innovation does not end with the technological product itself. While those who create the technology provide a foundation, it is the users who truly define technology.
That is why it is curious that corporate Australia seems so stiff in response to this impending revolution. David Autor, Professor of Economics at MIT, notes that this stagnation is driven by a misconception: “People only think of AI boosting growth by substituting humans.”
According to Infosys, 45% of executives say that AI has, in some way, outpaced their human workforce. However, Accenture’s research suggests that only 3% of executives are investing in training and other measures to make sure that their current workforce does not become redundant.
In essence, many leaders are suffering from tunnel vision. They think that AI’s impact is limited to the replacement of workers.
The pleasure and pain of AI stems from the same source; we know that it will bring about change but we do not know what this change will be. That is why executive leaders’ narrow-mindedness is so damaging. If we assume that the only benefit AI will bring is improvements to efficiency, we will miss out on the other benefits arising from changes we cannot yet foresee.
So how should leaders respond to AI?
It may be ironic but it is entirely appropriate that leaders utilise their primal instincts: Leaders, like all species since the dawn of time, must adapt to thrive.
In the same way that animals with the most beneficial mutations were able to cope with changing climates and environments, complete leaders will thrive if they can look to the future and make sure their workforce uses AI in ways that other companies are not.
Essentially, leaders must respond to AI using their natural, human intelligence.
Accenture’s three-point plan is a great guide for executives looking to respond effectively to AI.
1. Reimagine Work
AI will make some job descriptions redundant (46% of respondents to Accenture’s survey say so). However, this does not dispense of the need for workers themselves. Complete leaders will look at ways in which AI can be supplemented by human employees, creating new avenues for the company to grow.
Complete leaders should establish a relationship between AI and their employees. Work should not cease; it should change.
2. Pivot the Workforce
Sadly, leaders are not psychic; they cannot know what the future holds. So it is vital that they prepare their companies so that, when AI offers a benefit, it is able to be taken up.
One way of fostering this agility is encouraging project-based work and a culture of creativity. Through experimentation, companies can use their current workforce to respond to opportunity, maximising AI’s capacity to induce growth.
Leaders must prepare their workers for the reality of working with machines. According to Accenture, confidence with AI varies according to age. However, only 34% of all respondents are ‘very confident’ in their ability to work effectively with new technology.
There is, clearly, a skill shortage. It is the responsibility of executive leaders to make sure workers have the skills to make the most of AI.
In many ways, executives are lucky. They do not have to worry about being replaced by robots.
But if you think the AI revolution stops to pick up passengers along the way, you are sorely mistaken.
Leadership means adaptation. You must take the initiative and make sure you differentiate yourself and your company from your competitors by making the most of the positive disruption AI will inevitably bring about.
Demonstrating complete leadership means being ready to respond at the very moment these changes come to fruition. It means being prepared and flexible. It means looking ahead but being open to things you might not have foreseen.
To thrive, leaders must be perceptible and agile.
Artificial Intelligence necessitates, above all else, that leaders use an essential component of their own human intelligence: Adaptation.
Grounded in big data and advanced analytics, the ground-breaking Complete Leader Program targets the adaptive capacities of participants to help develop a more malleable approach to changing circumstances. If you are interested in fostering this skill, please contact Melinda Fell.