With AI, as a leader, you cannot just behave as usual
We talk a lot about all the jobs that will be replaced and discontinued as companies get better at using AI applications like ChatGPT and bard.ai. We talk less about the fact that no company can succeed in applying and creating real value through AI without humans.
The human factor is both the one that can mean you are driving with the handbrake on, blindfolded, or even having a spanner put in the wheel when trying to use new technology, and at the same time it can be the factor that can let you drive at full acceleration, and secure real business value and a competitive advantage in the market.
If you want to ensure success in technological development, it is therefore crucial to invest in the people who will create it. And it is important to show real understanding of the barriers and challenges employees face and create a framework in which they can succeed. Because as human beings, we will have to approach our work life and tasks in a completely different way, we will have to continuously unlearn and learn ingrained habits and competences, and the success criteria will be constantly changing.
We humans can be curious, energetic and experimental. We can also seem to be dismissive and reluctant when it comes to taking on new technology and changing our ways and frameworks. And it's no wonder. Because it is our work and part of our identity that is at stake.
While technology has replaced routine work in the past, today we are looking at a time where even more complex tasks can be performed without us. In reality, this means that if you, as both an employee and a manager, do not consider what it will do to your personal relevance in the labour market in the future, then you are actually already falling behind. And that's scary.
Questions like "will everything I can do and am good at become irrelevant?", "how can I start to keep up – and how am I going to find the time for it?", and "there's already so much I can't fathom, can I keep faking it?" will automatically generate unwelcome noise in the minds of both employees and managers.
The positive, well-meaning management talk about how incredibly exciting the development is, what results it can create, and that technology only creates value in the interaction with people, will only exacerbate the noise, which can very easily become a barrier to getting started at all. That’s not exactly conducive to jumping on the technology wave, no matter what it may offer in terms of new opportunities.
A culture change
In the old days, change management experts would advise us to explain why change is important, what we will get out of it and what the goal actually is. But that advice works poorly at a time when the goal is constantly shifting and is difficult to set out in concrete terms. We know that we have to get started, and we are fine as individuals setting out a vision but we cannot clearly communicate where it will take us, and the end destination is a state of constant change. Yet there can be an incredible amount of energy and value in that.
Technological development and the evolution of our use of it will not stop anytime soon. We need to embrace the reservations, fears and insecurities together. And agree that all the feelings of reluctance are not the ones that need fixing, but are there for a very good reason, and at the same time look to arouse the curiosity, inventiveness and playfulness that can drive change.
As leaders, we must be able to demonstrate, respectively, the right amount of healthy scepticism and curious enthusiasm, just as we must be able to handle our own limitations and strengths. And then we must be able to accommodate, nudge, control, push, direct, listen to and take an interest in the individual, the team's and the organisation's reaction, which will probably be characterised by a jumble of inertia, curiosity, recklessness, denial and enthusiasm. All this while running a business.
We are facing a cultural change, and it is driven by the head, hand and heart. So as a leader take the first steps. Be curious and empathetic. Listen. Ask. Try. Please try again. Learn. Repeat