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Are CEOs Ready to Cope with Human & Machine?

We are currently in the midst of an epochal moment in human history: the era of artificial intelligence (AI). It’s often hailed as the fourth industrial revolution, and for good reason. The immense innovation of this technology has the potential to revolutionize every industry in every sector. However, this massive amount of change has brought on some uncertainty for the future. How exactly might AI impact the workplace, and how can executives prepare for it?

AI has existed in many forms over the past several decades, but it really only exploded into our personal and business lives in 2016. However, the speed and force with which it is developing is astounding and has left many firms scrambling to keep up.

Because AI has made such a large impact in such a short amount of time, many myths have sprung up about the future role it will play in how we conduct business. In truth, much of this discomfort and unease stems from humans’ innate nature to fear what we do not yet understand. Some have drawn bold assumptions about just how rapidly AI is developing, when the truth is that superintelligence may take anywhere from decades to centuries, if it even happens at all. Other myths express the fear that machines could render humans completely unnecessary and decimate the human labour force.

Recent research from PwC completely dispels this myth. Their report predicts that AI could eliminate 7 million UK jobs across several industries, but could also create a further 7.2 million for a net gain of 200,000 new jobs in the UK alone. AI has opened up a new pool of roles that can be utilised by all types of individuals, including the elderly and others who may have been restricted due to their level of physicality. This vast injection into the job market and economy demonstrates that AI will likely create more opportunity than it destroys.

Beyond creating new jobs, AI will revolutionize day-to-day business practices and boost productivity. It is already being used in a variety of customer service functions. Beyond chatbots, AI’s capabilities are being used in airports for guest service guidebots, and AI also fuels a fully-robotised ‘team’ at the Henn na Hotel in Tokyo. On a smaller scale, AI can streamline some of the more expensive, repetitive and time-consuming business processes. But in order for these advancements to create value in the workplace, it is important that the workforce adapts as well.

Since AI will have the ability to perform some of the more mundane and routinized tasks in an organisation, employees will need to reskill. HR directors will need to help teams hire the best talent possible and retrain their existing talent to adapt to the changes demanded by AI advancements. Critical thinking skills will be more imperative than ever before, especially in entry-level roles.

AI machines are programmed to achieve specific objectives and perform a specific set of tasks, so it is crucial that human staff fill the gap in knowledge and advanced-level thinking that technology lacks. Man and machine will need to work together to ensure that human goals and technological outputs align. To ensure this partnership reaps maximal benefits, HR directors, C-suite executives, and team leaders should push employees to be more data and consumer driven. In order for the digital transition to run smoothly, it is essential that everyone on the team knows and understands the goals and results that need to be achieved with technology.

One of the most important steps organizations should take to prepare themselves is to develop a proactive approach to technology and innovation. Employees at every level and in every department from HR to IT need to become digitally-minded. This will take time, initiative, and strong leadership. Both junior and established professionals should seek continuous learning opportunities and stay connected with the latest developments in technology. C-suite executives and team leaders who want to propel their organisations into the future should enable and encourage professional development through training and education.

To ensure the process of adopting AI goes smoothly, it’s important that each organization has a method in place for self-evaluation and assessment. My book, Using Artificial Intelligence in Marketing, contains a scorecard that makes this process easy by providing a tool for guidance and measurement. The scorecard contains 10 categories of five goals each, with recommendations for improvement. If C-suite executives set clear goals, keep track of progress, and stay completely honest with themselves and their team about the areas in which they can improve, it will help move the business positively forward.

AI is changing the world around us so quickly that it can be difficult to keep up. With the right preparation, strong leadership, continuous learning and clear goals, business leaders can prepare their organization to succeed in the new digital age and reap the many benefits that AI has to offer. It will take time and dedication to accomplish, but in the long run, it will be a great advantage to view artificial intelligence as a friend rather than a foe in the workplace.