The Strategist

How to work in the AI age

06/07/2019 - 11:26

Thanks to development of technology, we are entering an era of radical business and work environment transformation. Progress has affected not only production. Today, artificial intelligence systems are integrated into all areas, from marketing, sales and customer service to R&D.

There are many examples that prove that the revolution is not coming, but is already here. Moreover, there are specific steps that business leaders should take in the near future.

Less routine, more features

It is widely believed that AI-based systems, including robotics and bots, will gradually begin to crowd out people from jobs. But in reality, machines will not replace men. They will expand our capabilities, relieve from unpleasant routine work and allow to concentrate on more complex tasks that require a creative approach.

A good example of what is currently possible is the Elbo chair, developed by Autodesk using artificial intelligence. The program has generated a large number of unexpected forms that meet specified technical parameters. And designers became curators who chose the most successful from a variety of designs.

Consider another example. Stitch Fix picks up clothes and delivers them based on data provided by the client, such as style preferences, clothing size and access to the user’s Pinterest collections.

The company's activities are based on a system of recommendations given by both people and machines.

Structured data, such as style, size and preferences, are managed by machines. Stylists pay more attention to unstructured data, such as pictures from Pinterest and customer comments.

When the time to prepare goods for shipment comes, the algorithms reduce number of possible options. Then, based on their knowledge and experience, stylists prepare the final set and makes personal recommendations for the client in some cases. In other words, the machine complements the employee.

Use of new technologies is the way to save time and other resources, increase productivity, improve the quality of goods and services. But the maximum efficiency is achieved only when people and machines act as allies, taking advantage of each other.

Therefore, managers should not try to replace personnel with mechanisms (including in factory workshops). Instead, you need to rethink business processes and change functionality of employees, establishing an organic interaction between people and machines.

Actual skills

The nature of our work will change significantly in the era of artificial intelligence. First, most of the routine will be transferred to machines. People will be able to spend more time on tasks that are more characteristic of a person, such as interpersonal communication, creativity, decision making, basic research, and work with ambiguous information.

Secondly, staff will need completely new skills related to interaction of man and machine in the future. For example, in the position of a GE service technician, you would need an ability to ask a computer smart questions with varying degrees of abstraction. With the help of artificial intelligence, you become an expert in a much more complex system, and your knowledge of “how things work” becomes very important.

When a machine does not understand what to do next, or when the business model lacks business or ethical context, people should be able to determine where, how and when to intervene. This is another important skill.

Already today one can observe how existing professions and work methods are transformed. And there’s a need to invest in training and retraining of employees, so that they can master the tasks of tomorrow.

Future professions

Of course, the need for some specialists will disappear. But at the same time many new jobs will appear. Most of them will be focused on human machine learning.

For example, industrial robots working alongside people need to be programmed and trained to perform various tasks, which requires involvement of employees with appropriate skills.

In some cases, it is important that learning machines acquire human-like features. For example, chat bots serving customers should be able to recognize unobvious moments of communication.

Ethics managers will be responsible for one of the most important functions. For example, an artificial intelligence credit approval system demonstrates bias against a particular race. The specialist is obliged to investigate and eliminate this violation.

This is only a small part of the many professions that will arise in the future. The main conclusion is that companies implementing artificial intelligence technologies will need completely new specialists with a certain education, qualifications and experience.

The first step for a successful start

If you are ready to rethink business processes, but do not know where to start, try to find "pressure points" both inside and outside the organization. It can be a cumbersome long internal process (for example, it takes the HR department too long to find a suitable employee). Or, it can be an annoying and time-consuming external process (for example, customers have to fill in many forms for the insurance company to reimburse the costs of treatment).

Having found out such problem areas for the first time, you can analyze ways to eliminate them based on the use of artificial intelligence. Pay attention to such features of business operations as repeatability, reproducibility, redundancy. This is a sure sign that your tasks and processes are ready for transformation. For example, you could instruct artificial intelligence to study a million analytical reports.

At the same time, rethinking business processes takes time. Observe, study all conditions, involve other participants in the process, experiment, draw conclusions and improve what needs to be improved.

Based on “Human + Machine. Reimagining Work in the Age of AI” by Paul R. Daugherty и H. James Wilson

< >

Thursday, May 16th 2024 - 03:10 HSBC starts looking for new CEO