How does innovation impact society?

Birdseye view people on the street

Written by Kelley Conway, Executive Vice President at Northern Trust Corporation

Technological innovation affects all aspects of our world, from agriculture to transportation to how we communicate with each other. Mundane tasks can now be automated using robotic process automation (RPA), while artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a collaborator across industries as varied as medicine, transportation and fashion.1

In this series, I will explore the broad impact of innovation on society and what enterprises can do to help ensure that technology innovation furthers societal growth.


Technology innovation is reshaping society

Technology is now firmly embedded throughout our everyday activities, sometimes to a degree where digital becomes invisible, blurring the lines with the physical world.

But the reach of “New” technology is even larger than that: innovation is reshaping our society. This level of integration is the next great societal evolution. The world is reimagining itself not just around digital innovation, but, by extension, around the companies that provide those services.

In our Banking Technology Vision 2018 research, we found that:

86% of surveyed bank business and IT executives agree that technology is increasing the level of integration between financial services and the rest of their customers’ lives.2

The technological revolution we live in today, and the innovations that it has brought about, are only limited by our imagination and the degree of social acceptance as to what is possible. A simple yet powerful example of this are self-driving vehicles.

Other technologies have also seen exponential advances, including:

  • Cloud
  • AI
  • Blockchain
  • Augmented and virtual reality
  • Internet of things (IoT)
  • Robotics
  • Quantum computing

These technologies are helping us move toward a seamless world, where products and services are available to us if and when we need them, and where technology has become invisible in—and indivisible from—people’s daily lives.

Take Capital One, for example. This financial services company allows its customers to conduct simple, everyday banking tasks, such as checking account balances, transaction history or payment due dates, with the help of Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa.3 A number of other banks are doing likewise.

In the insurance sector, some pioneers are starting to use blockchain to create new value propositions. One, has launched an automated, secure platform for parametric insurance against delayed flights. If a delay of more than two hours occurs, compensation is triggered automatically via a smart contract linking the insurance purchase with global air traffic databases.4

Of course, society has rebuilt itself around technological disruption many times before, and should no doubt do so again. But this latest transformation is unique: for the first time in a technological transformation, the change is a two-way street. People aren’t just using companies’ products and services, but feeding information and access back to them.

To deliver such “integrated innovation,” companies need a profound level of insight and impact into people’s lives. Companies also need that same level of insight into their partners’ business. Savvy organizations are realizing that this level of connection—and this degree of trust—requires a new type of relationship.


The real promise of AI

Until now, robots, big data analytics and other technologies have been used to work in parallel with people, but in automated isolation. Their role: to improve process efficiencies.

Now, as companies invest in AI systems that can sense, communicate, interpret and learn, all that changes. As AI grows in its capabilities—and in its impact on people’s lives—AI is becoming a responsible, productive member of society. In this way, AI is not only driving competitive advantages for businesses—it is changing society itself.

AI can help businesses move beyond automation to elevate human capabilities that unlock new value. An alliance between humans and machines can usher in a new era of work and drive competitive advantage.

Based on our Technology Vision 2018 research:

Enterprises fully committed to AI could boost their revenue by 38 percent over the next five years.5

The full promise of AI lies in humans and machines working together to develop differentiated customer experiences and to create entirely new products, services and markets.


Retraining and partnerships are key to success

However, technology can be both a benefit and a detriment, and the impact of technology is felt by individuals and businesses alike. A new technology may lead to the development of an entire new industry—but in turn, it may also destroy an existing one.

Consequently, there is a real fear in society that AI will be so efficient that it will result in massive job loss.

“Often people only think of AI boosting growth by substituting humans. But actually, huge value is going to come from the new goods, services and innovations AI will enable.” David Autor, Professor of Economics and Associate Head, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

But what is often overlooked is that workers are also consumers expecting personalized services delivered by AI. Why wouldn’t they anticipate that intelligent machines can continuously inform them and proactively uncover new insights that help them make their own and their customers’ lives better?

Business leaders can take advantage of this opportunity. To achieve superior rates of growth, and to create a new wave of employment, they are encouraged to apply AI in more innovative ways.

People not only want new skills; rather, they are impatient to thrive in an intelligent enterprise that can disrupt markets and improve their working experience.

To create new value through human–machine collaboration, business leaders should focus on three key actions:

1.    Reimagine work—from workforce planning to work planning

  • Assess tasks and skills to reconfigure: Identify tasks and allocate them between machines and humans.
  • Break with tradition by creating new roles: Go beyond functional jobs to specialized, insight-driven, multiskilled roles.
  • Assess internal skills and map skills to new roles: Prioritize “New Skilling” strategies for the existing workforce.

2.    Pivot the workforce—to areas that create new forms of value.

  • Align the workforce to new business models: Shift the purpose of the workforce to synchronize with an organization’s unique value proposition.
  • Recognize the business case: Don’t simply bank on efficiencies to benefit the bottom line; rather, turn savings into investments for the future workforce and that propel new business models.
  • Organize for agility: As people do less repetitive work and instead participate in a series of project teams, they should be given more autonomy and decision-making power.
  • Foster a new leadership DNA: An agile workforce that leverages the best of intelligent technology and the best of human ingenuity ushers in a new set of expectations to today’s leaders.

3.    Scale up “new skilling”—to work with intelligent machines.

  • Prioritize skills for development: Selecting skills training depends on the type of AI being used and the size, sector and existing skill levels of an organization.
  • Account for willingness and skill: Target training to account for different levels of willingness and skill.
  • Go digital to create innovative learning experiences: Digital learning methods, such as virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, can provide realistic simulations to help workers master new manual tasks so they can work with smart machinery.

In my next post, I will discuss some issues around the inherent bias of technology, and the potential consequences.

For more information, download our Accenture Technology Vision 2018Banking Technology Vision 2018 and Reworking the Revolution reports. You may also want to take a look at our 2018 Fjord Trends.

Originally posted here

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