“There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune… And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
Julius Caesar – William Shakespeare
It’s some years now since I first wrote about the way in which the pace of technological development allied to the growth of artificial intelligence (AI) was going to completely transform not just jobs but entire business sectors. In the intervening period I’ve reported on a range of predictions and studies which have highlighted the way in which the rise in AI has affected, or is likely to affect, the world of work.
Some of these stories have been picked up by the more sensationalist media, giving rise to headlines warning of mass unemployment as ‘robots take our jobs’; whilst other more thoughtful publications have highlighted the way in which the removal of mundane tasks opens up the way for innovative development allied to great service. For example a recent Parliamentary enquiry* into robots and artificial intelligence was reported in one publication as “MPs warn millions of Brits will lose their jobs to AI machines” and in another as “Humans need new skills for post-AI world.”
Technology – threat or future shaper
And this is the dilemma; should we fear the rise of technology or embrace the possibilities which it brings? Well actually, it’s not a dilemma at all. Sensationalist headlines may sell newspapers, but those tasked with building a strong future for their organisations know the tremendous potential which can be opened up through integrating advances in AI into an innovation-led structure.
In my last article on this site I wrote about the way in which building genuine customer insight could lead to a game-changing shift in the customer relationship. But building genuine insight can do far more, helping organisations to understand their business, their sector and their potential.
The KPMG Global CEO Outlook for 2015 highlighted strategy, business model and operating model as the top three areas which CEOs expect to see transformed within three years. If they are right then this isn’t going to be achieved through any ‘business as usual’ model. It’s going to take a complete change of culture and outlook and that means making the most of all and any intelligence you can get your hands on.
Intuition and insight in tandem
Now admittedly some of that will come from a more ‘hands on’ and collaborative approach. Businesses are going to find themselves working in tandem with customers, suppliers and the wider constituency in order to develop genuine solutions. And it has to be said that AI can only go so far before human intuition and interaction needs to take over. But that doesn’t mean that AI should be dismissed. Quite the contrary; the winners are likely to be those who can successfully leverage the best of both worlds, human and artificial, in order to deliver improved operational efficiency and develop game-changing solutions.
The Parliamentary science and technology committee report into AI makes fascinating reading, not least for its recognition that the rise in AI inevitably will require a change of approach across legal, ethical and societal boundaries. Yes, as the field develops it will mean changes; but changes are only a threat when society and business fail to step up to embrace the potential that innovative change can bring. As the introduction to the report comments there may be differing views on the implications of the rise in AI for jobs but “there is general agreement that a much greater focus is needed on adjusting the UK’s education and training systems to deliver the skills that will enable people to adapt, and thrive, as new technology comes on stream.”
AI isn’t for everyone and every organisation and is just one of the many advances that are driving us towards a much greater, technology-enabled future. But, where appropriate it shouldn’t be feared but instead used, embraced and integrated, in the right context, to help organisation become true innovation leaders and future shapers.
This article was written by Cris Beswick for Training Zone and previously posted on 14/10/2016.