January 10, 2019

Will AI Put You Out of Business?

Brent Hultman

Brent Hultman
Partner & Program Facilitator/Strong People Systems

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In an article in the Financial Times, December 11, 2017, Jo Owen points to a study done by Oxford University which “estimates that nearly half of all jobs in the US are at risk from automation and computers in the next 20 years.”

Owen goes on to say, “The AI challenge is not just about educating more AI and computer experts, although that is important. It is also about building skills that AI cannot emulate. These are essential human skills such as teamwork, leadership, listening, staying positive, dealing with people and managing crises and conflict. These are all forms of tacit knowledge, not explicit knowledge. They are know-how skills, not know-what skills.” Further, Owen quotes: “Tom Ravenscroft, chief executive of Enabling Enterprise…“We are doubling down on the idea that if we get children to know things and regurgitate them in a certain way in an exam, then we are setting them up for success in life.” Success depends on equipping the next generation with human skills that even AI cannot emulate: creativity, innovation, resilience, dealing with conflict, ambiguity and uncertainty.”

The Financial Times article focuses on the need to transform education to equip children for the AI workplace. This is also a key element of success in your staff development and training plans. Obviously, you need to train people to have the know-how to do what you need done today. However, as you seek solutions to the challenges that threaten the success of your company, consider how being an organization with a culture focused on equipping employees with human skills that enable them to leverage AI will set you apart from the competition.

Creating a culture that invites engagement and being an organization that invests in individuals to equip them for all that AI will bring will make your company an employer of choice. The best workers (and most Millennials) want to know that they are valued and that they are doing meaningful work. Having a culture that clearly demonstrates these values has a huge return in attracting and in retaining the best people. As you support your people in discovering their strengths and their potential, they will apply these to continuous improvement for the benefit of your organization.  

AI will become the great generational equalizer. As AI provides faster, better access to information and to all of the “know-what skills”, Boomers, Xers, Millennials, and Generation Z will all be in the same boat. We will all be facing a world where what we know is not valuable since AI can access more and do it faster and cheaper than any of us. Owen and Ravenscroft clearly state the problem and suggest the solution.  

AI will continue to take on more and more of the “know-what skills” tasks. People will continue to be displaced from the day-to-day doing in all businesses. Consider how this will impact your business. If AI is able to handle the what of your industry isn’t it likely that a few very large players will have the best AI and be able to deliver on the what faster, cheaper, and better than you can? If this is the case, your future success will depend on being creative, innovative, and able to bring human skills to situations that these large AI machines are not nimble enough to adapt to.

Comments? You can contact me directly via my ExecRanks profile.

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