Managing non-human colleagues: who’s leading who in the age of AI?

Chatbot on mobile

Written by Alison Freer, Director of Consulting and Learning at durhamlane

Managing non-human colleagues: who’s leading whom in the Age of AI?

In a recent Digital Leaders Salon we debated Artificial Intelligence (AI), chatbots and the future for humans. There was great hope (and some horror) about the emerging possibilities for customer engagement, enabled by AI.

Hot on the heels of the Digital Age, the ‘AI Age’ is upon us. From Siri, to Alexa, predictive text, personalised ads, auto-messaging and chat-bots, commonplace tech in our everyday consumer lives, is rapidly pervading our workplaces. To stay current, no matter with which generation you most closely identify, you need to understand how to adapt to working with ‘non-human colleagues’.

Take the case of Andrew and Amy, two new team members engaged by one business to manage diary scheduling. Amy and Andrew have been hired for their professional, personal and highly efficient capabilities, and to reduce time lost to meeting planning email ping-pong. Every day they are entrusted by their managers to communicate freely with other colleagues within the business, and with multiple client contacts. Amy and Andrew are AI assistants, and they are ‘non-humans’, although they behave with very convincing human-like personas.

Don’t expect your non-human colleagues to be pigeon-holed in administrative tasks. Take the example of a web development business that is creating AI-enabled support assistants to engage with mental health and elderly care patients. The UK’s NHS is at the forefront of exploring use-cases for non-human supporters of very human patients. Will AI every reach a point where it can alleviate pressure on over-stretched human service providers?

Harvard predicts that we will soon see the dawn of robo-managers, who will use machine learning to devise complex project schedules, task allocation and monitor our progress. In future, you may have to answer to a robo-boss for routine progress updates and reporting.

There is huge potential for AI-enabled technologies to transform the way that we engage with colleagues, customers and end users. The question is not ‘if’, but ‘when’ you will adopt AI into your business, organisation or personal career path.

If you are in a leadership position today, there are many new facets of Digital Leadership’to consider and AI needs to be on your agenda – now. The likelihood is that you are already implementing AI within your business, or considering when you will need to do so.

Here are some AI essentials for Digital Leaders everywhere:

  1. Understand the AI Spectrum: the potential AI tech-stack is huge – and growing. With everything from investment portfolio analysis, sales-enablement, customer care assistants, through to free-to-use chatbot services, evaluate where’s best to start your AI adoption.
  2. Readiness to adopt: with many attention-grabbing headlines about bots stealing jobs, be mindful of the potential for anything labelled ‘AI’ to cause concern or resistance within an organisation. Engage your early adopters to test and champion the use-cases.
  3. Adopt in-house first: before you unleash AI on external customers or end-users, focus on opportunities to engage staff in realising the benefits of AI-enabled systems, such as machine-learning (ML) or Robotic Process Automation RPA). For large and complex organisations, customer experience starts with existing colleagues who could be liberated from mundane operational admin and then be released to re-discover their creative, problem-solving talents.
  4. Strive for frictionless experiences: as consumers we expect as near to a one-click service as we can, and today’s GenWeb are increasingly dispensing with clicks or typed instructions in favour of voice. Frictionless experiences are borne from the relentless pursuit of customer-centric, human system design thinking. You need highly empathic, organised and creative humans to deliver this.
  5. Ethics and Governance: the biggest job for leaders is to set a clear course on the values that govern ethical standards as you start to adopt AI technologies. With the rise of voice-based automation, natural-language analysis, the potential for non-human generated voice interactions is becoming more convincing. What is the impact for your colleagues, customers and end-users if they think they’re dealing with a human when in fact, it’s a bot?
  6. In experts we trust: ultimately, it is the bot-handlers, the developers, creatives and programmers who manage the direction of development of your AI capabilities. As well as good governance, ensuring that your experts are thinking and acting with the very best integrity is essential. This is about nudging and nurturing egalitarian and inclusive values at every step of the way. Take heed of recent cases of ‘unconscious bias’ in programming such as Apple’s iPhone facial recognition and other instances, that inadvertently favoured the white, male demographic profile of the technology developers.

As we accelerate at speed into the AI Age, the remit for digital leaders has widened once more. As ever, ignorance is no defence, and leaders must constantly re-appraise the opportunities and limitations of AI adoption. And for those worried about a dystopian future, think instead of the new skills profile that will be required. Humans will (for now) have exclusivity on creativity, entrepreneurship, sensitivity and empathy. The future is exciting if you view it with humanity.


This article was originally published here.

 

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