In today’s business world, it seems like every company wants to become an AI-first company. As Kevin Kelly, cofounder of Wired said, “Over time, AI will not seem any more unusual than electricity, cars, airplanes, the Internet and other major transformative technologies. Everything that we formerly electrified we will now cognitize.” Our latest whitepaper “Humans + Intelligent Machines: Mastering the Future of Work Economy in Asia Pacific” reveals that AI-driven intelligent machines are emerging as the number one influence on the future of work and will fundamentally change both business (reconfiguring delivery models, rethinking value prepositions, etc.) and operating models over the next five years.
While it is true that intelligent machines will increase productivity and allow us to solve big problems and invent entirely new products, services, and experiences, it is also true that they will replace jobs and make certain skills and capabilities irrelevant, leaving behind those employees who are unable to keep up and compete. This reality becomes even more alarming when industry reports claim that 70% of HR executives expect the use of AI technology to result in significant job losses in Asia over the next five years. Job displacement and the redefinition of jobs and tasks is a key concern with AI today and few leaders have a clear understanding of how to handle this disruption. Without an integration plan in place, employees’ fears of job losses could lead to trust issues between employees and employers, creating uncertainty about the future of work.
Fear is an inevitable consequence associated with anything new and unfamiliar. In the case of the future of work, fear provides an opportunity for leaders to elevate employee trust. Leaders can achieve this by proceeding sensitively and gradually when introducing intelligent systems and by focusing on the human and machine collaboration issue. In fact, involving employees at an early stage in the development process will help them get accustomed to the new technology, which will ultimately elevate trust levels. Prioritizing people will require changes in management culture, which still tends to be hierarchical and authoritarian in many Asia Pacific organizations.
Ultimately, the future of work will be shaped by two inevitable and powerful forces: the growing adoption of AI-driven intelligent machines and the future partnership between humans and machines. Striking a balance between these two forces will serve as both an opportunity and a challenge for organizations. The transition to the intelligent machine age won’t happen without an acute focus on the relationship between humans and machines, how the two will collaborate, and how the current workforce and businesses will adapt to AI. Success with AI adoption will be based on how well companies blend and extend the strengths of humans (cognition, judgment, empathy, versatility, etc.) with the capabilities of machines (accuracy, endurance, computation, speed, etc.) to create a joint team for common business goals.
The bottom line here is that business leaders face a delicate balancing act to ensure optimal collaboration between humans and intelligent machines. Along the way, some will falter and lose balance, but that’s absolutely fine. The key to getting to the end of the tight rope is to act now, adapt quickly, and learn from your failures. So, rather than waiting for more clarity over exactly what the intelligent machine is and what its use will mean for your company, its time to find yourself a tight rope and start walking.