Future Boss – leadership in times of AI

“We can’t stop it, but we can manage it”

That’s the words from a famous AI scientist when talking about the future of management. Artificial Intelligence is emerging and is estimated to impact people, society and business more than Internet has done. AI offers a great number of opportunities and increased values, if we do it right.
We know that AI will affect virtually every role and function in the businesses of the future, and that a large proportion of all jobs will be affected by digital technology to some extent. But just because a task can be automated doesn’t mean it will be!

Leaders will continue to be instrumental in managing transformations and make them successful. This means leaders need to increase their knowledge about AI to understand the opportunities as well as understanding the impact of their business and their workforce.

In short, leaders need be prepared for:

1. Changes in roles and functions
When the nature of many current roles will change, leaders need to on top of new ways of working. In many scenarios, the change will place greater emphasis on tasks requiring technological, creative and critical thinking skills. Leaders not only need to put more time and effort into motivating their team members but also ensure upskilling of the human capabilities.

2. A hybrid workforce with synchronized interaction between humans and machines
When we learn how to use technology and machines in the most effective way, we will achieve greater interaction and extended collaborations between humans and machines. Long term we will see a hybrid workforce where AI is fully integrated into the business. Short term and within a foreseeable future, humans will stay in control and continue to teach machines. Over time our roles will change, and we will spend more time monitoring machines that will perform the actual tasks themselves. In this sense, humans will become leaders and AI will become the means to carry out the work for us. A hybrid team-work!

3. Data-driven decision making, with or without human judgement
Many leaders are considering the opportunities of using AI to help them make decisions in the future. Scientists also recognize AI can provide support by processing data that can be used as a basis for decision making. However, not every decision could or should be supported by AI. Depending on the industry you work in, the issue of credibility can be vitally important for both customer relations and the relationships with your employees. When using AI for decision, leaders will be accountable for how the decision is made, the data being used and how the process is communicated to the organization. Many simple and frequent decisions are preferred to be automated, but more complex decisions will most likely include some kind of human judgement. You have probably already heard of self-driving cars that have been involved in fatal accidents and trading robots that have lost billions on the stock market. These are good examples of more complex decisions, driven by data but still need a human hand on it.

4. Importance of ethics, morale and increased responsibility
No technology is evil or good in itself. It is the use of technology that determines whether it helps or hinders mankind. AI brings with it many new moral perspectives that leaders need to understand, take responsibility for and in some cases act on. Many scientists and organizations have developed ethical guidelines to stay one step ahead and minimize the misuse of AI. These guidelines commonly state that AI should benefit both humans and our planet, respect laws and human rights and support democracy and diversity. The situation where technology can be misused, means that leaders will be more responsible than ever before for the AI-based solutions people work with. A good example of a moral dilemma could be if a well-known, web-based, bookshop develops its drone service to deliver books but then someone uses it to drop bombs instead.

These short advices are extracts from the book “Future Boss – a no-nonsense guide to leadership in times of AI” by Åsa Degermark