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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Ramsden

AI Evolution = Leadership Revolution

Here be dragons

As we see Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools proliferate and become exponentially more powerful the global discussion heats up around the practical, ethical and existential risks of how we use this powerful technology.

Key industry leaders are taking a stand, most notably Geoffrey Hinton, Google's "Godfather of AI" who resigned as a warning to think very carefully about how we use AI to protect ourselves from these risks, and to take action. Even Elon Musk and a range of top experts in technology (including Steve Wozniak, Yoshua Bengio, and yes I myself) banded together to sign an open letter urging all in the AI space to 'pause giant AI experiments' while we get a handle on this.

There are also considerable risks that AI brings to our workplaces. Once trained, how an AI does what it does cannot be reviewed. It's neural-networks can not be read by humans, so it's very hard to know exactly what an AI is capable of, and what it might do under certain rare circumstances.

Companies should start by implementing AI into discreet processes and products, at first. Allow humans and traditional digital processes to 'be the bridge' between them. And ensure humans and non-AI systems are involved in regular quality-checks of what the AI is doing. This mitigates the risk to the company and to society of AI overstepping it's intended role.

We must also be aware that AI is still not at the point of being able to fully replace human connection. Yes we humans are fallible, we don't always get it right, but there is an inherent hard-to-quantify quality in humanity that AI has yet been able to recreate, and may never reach.

What are we to make of all of this? Some mitigation strategies we are likely to see as a result of international treaties as the discussion continue:

  1. Deliberately slowed and staged development and use of AI technologies.

  2. Isolating AI processes such that they run only parts of a system, not the whole.

  3. Ongoing human quality assurance and risk management roles to supervise the work of AI tools.

While all of this is being agreed, we can turn our attention to some of the other concerns people have about AI, and this is where I have good news to share. Let's debunk the biggest myth around AI.

Mythbusting: AI will take our jobs!

Technology has never taken jobs away from humans, for long. Every time the pattern is the same: When the technology is introduced, yes some roles are now obsolete, however the smartest companies use that extra capacity to add value on top of their previous offerings giving them the competitive advantage. Soon enough every business in that category must do the same to compete. And our collective expectations of what value looks like expand. That's how we ended up with the magic-everything-box that most of us carry around in our pockets.

For example, humans used to draw all maps by hand. This career called 'cartographer' radically changed with the introduction of computers. No longer were fleets of cartographers required to manually draw out the maps based on geological survey data. However in it's place sprung up a myriad of new ways to use maps and computer-based tools culminating in such incredible technologies as Google Maps and self-driving cars. AI will represent the same pattern just at an accelerated rate, jobs will change, but there will always be work for those who can adapt.

So what's left for us? Complex decision-making and empathy are not AI's strong suit, and may never be. The absolute best solution we have around complex decision-making are still people working together. By taking the best of everyone's perspectives we can compensate for our human limitations like unconscious biases and emotionally compromised thinking. We can take that to the next level by up-skilling Facilitative Leaders who excel at not only facilitating process and discussion, but navigating egos and emotional journeys. These leaders will be key to getting the most from AI and easing companies through the transitions to come.

So what will change?

As there is less need for human 'doers' there will be more need for human 'leaders' to lead the transitions, to hold a vision for the future of the company and it's products, to lead the way around their areas of expertise, and finally to facilitate bringing all of these leaders together to map a coherent way forwards. Organisations will need to invest in hiring and up-skilling: Visionary Leaders, Expert Leaders and Facilitative Servant Leaders.

Human Resources teams also need to invest in the emotional journeys of their staff. In a world where almost everyone's a leader, there is significant individual growth needed to be able to manage and navigate the many complexities, uncertainty and human egos involved. This requires a level of emotional intelligence and resilience that just wasn't required by most roles in the past. As complex decision making and empathy are not AI's strengths, companies will need many leaders who can navigate their world using both head and heart. These Wholehearted Leaders will rise to the top in this fast-moving and complex environment. The behaviours and attributes of wholeheartedness can be developed over time with great self-reflection and inner work, however most companies will find it easier to hire those who already possess them. In this way, unless hiring experts for specific knowledge and skills, hiring practices will need to shift towards hiring primarily for character, mindsets and attitudes.

The inevitable revolution

One thing is inevitable, AI isn't going away, and it brings with it an even faster pace of change than ever before, and greater complexity and uncertainty. In other words... PRESSURE.

Before embarking on the journey towards AI and Digital Human workers, executives should focus on hiring Wholehearted Leaders who can hold a space for themselves and others in the face of complexity, uncertainty and challenges. These Wholehearted Leaders are equipped to be under pressure without turning it into stress for themselves and others.

In other words, the revolution starts within!

Those executives who make this a priority will find that the rest of the process will flow more easily by virtue of these wholehearted facilitative servant leaders becoming the 'grease and glue' that help the organisation respond to ever-changing demands.

And those leaders who prioritise their own Wholehearted journey will excel in any business, workplace and job interview situation into the future. If that's you, then I invite you to come and join the Wholehearted Leadership Revolution.

We are counting down to the launch of our book on the topic on 21 July, and meanwhile we'll be sharing bonus content in our Community on Facebook, so come and join us.

Viva la revolution!

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