In 1989, I started my banking career in the training department and launched the computer-based training (eLearning) function. The business problem the bank was solving was to find more efficient and effective ways to train the approximately 800 school leavers to become tellers and bank clerks. We effectively created a range of short learning programs, sent out to over 100 branches via 3.5 inch floppy disks to be used in stand alone PCs. Every month, branch administrators downloaded training data onto a disk and sent it to head office for collation (I sound really old now!).
I vividly remember visiting a branch (I even recall the location – Karrinyup in the northern suburbs of Perth) and having a conversation with a teller, prior to the introduction of a new core banking system that was moving from green text based screens, to using a PC based system. The teller said to me that she didn’t want to learn new computer skills, she just wanted to keep being an awesome teller serving customers. I said to her “fantastic, we need people who want to be really great at serving our customers, so keep doing this. Just focus on learning one new skill – learn to use a mouse. Get comfortable doing this. If you learn this, then the rest will be easy”. I went back to that branch quite a few months later and the teller came up to me and said that she had learnt to use the mouse and was excited about learning how to use the new core banking system.
This is a really great example of how someone adopted a growth mindset to learn a new skill to enable them to adopt the new technology when it arrived at the branch. This is what we all need to adopt in preparing for the introduction of AI and new technologies over the coming years.
AI technologies have already changed how we watch TV (think Netflix recommendations) listen to music (think Spotify recommended playlists) and how we search the Internet (think Siri and Alexa). There are many predictions talking about how AI will eliminate jobs, but equally, there are predictions that 85% of new jobs by 2030 do not even exist right now (Dell Technologies and Institute for the Future).
The Dot-com boom happened over 2 decades ago and no one predicted the explosion of social media. Roles that have since emerged include app developer, data scientist, digital marketing manager and UX designer.
I think the most appropriate way to think about how AI will impact the future of work is not to think of how machines will displace people, but think of how they can work together to improve organisational performance and to improve the quality & enjoyment of work. Think about the types of work that people do really well – creativity, perception, persuasion, innovation, communication and problem solving; and the work that computers (or machines) do really well – high speed data calculation and repetitive tasks. There are many aspects (tasks) to everyone’s role that are highly repetitive and do not add much value. Imagine if we can automate these things and get our people focused on what really adds value and what they are really good at and enjoy. This will result in people and machines doing things together that previously were not possible.
McKinsey published research back in 2017 that helps us to look at industry sector and tasks undertaken that has the potential to be automated. A sample of the research is shown below:
The red dots show tasks that can be automated and the size of the dot indicates the amount of time spent on each task. The work that can be automated are mostly repetitive cognitive tasks in a predictable environment.
Many organisations are only just beginning their AI journeys (or considering the impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution). As I have previously written, any introduction of new technologies must be linked to business strategy. What is certain is that future organisational and people capabilities will be different. Some of these will include:
- Technical capabilities – data literacy (understanding the value of data & interpreting data)
- People capabilities – leadership, growth mindset, creativity, collaboration, social (emotional) intelligence, critical thinking/reasoning, growth mindset, judgement & decision making (based on data), continuous learning
- Culture – cross-functional collaboration, empowerment of front line workers, innovation & experimentation
deliberatepractice is currently developing a range of services and products to assist people and organisations in preparing for and implementing AI technologies. This will include diagnostics, digital fluency & data literacy, understanding current and future organisational capabilities; culture change to enable digital transformation and leadership development specifically targeting future capability requirements.
An adaption of a quote by Ramakrishna that I feel captures the change and opportunity ahead:
The breeze of change is always blowing, set your sail to catch that breeze.
Bruce McCowan – Partner Performance