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Key ingredient for automation and AI success: Humans

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Dan Glessner

Vice President, Digital

November 10, 2017 - Albert Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution."

With technology's inexorable advance, in the future it will be harder and harder to know the difference between work done by automation, AI, and humans. This post shows the interplay between automation, AI, and humans. It describes how humans are the key ingredient for successful automation and AI, and provides recommendations for how we can best prepare for the future of work.

Automation and, much more recently, AI have led to increased productivity and rising standards of living. Enterprises around the world have recognized that investments in automation and AI are increasingly linked to greater competitiveness. Research has shown a strong connection between degree of automation and revenue growth: companies who had automated more of their business processes were six times more likely to have higher revenue growth and twice as likely to exceed their internal financial goals.

Genpact Fortune Knowledge AI research shows that while AI investments have become a strategic priority for many enterprises, only 25% of organizations say they are getting significant impact from it. Why this discrepancy? Because many companies believe automation and AI is more about technology than people.

However, AI leaders recognize the importance of investing far beyond technology—to focus on people development, process improvement, a culture of innovation, and change management.

Yes, people—with our imagination, process and domain understanding, emotional intelligence, leadership ability and change management skills—are the major difference between successful automation and AI projects… and those that do not deliver significant impact.

Humans are key ingredient for successful automation and AI

As I have written earlier, successful digital transformation is more about mindset than technology. In order to drive successful automation and AI projects, only humans have the required:

  • Imagination to envision potential future states and to create a shared vision
  • Strategic thinking ability to, ideally, anticipate industry and regulatory dynamics and connect seemingly un-connectable dots
  • Understanding of end-to-end business processes, plus the domain knowledge to know where to focus automation and AI investments
  • Empathy of the customer persona and environment to drive outside-in innovation around a significantly improved experience
  • Emotional intelligence to rally the entire organization and successfully lead the required change management

In other words, investment in automation and AI technologies without the broader people investments is myopic. Only by investing in these critical human elements will automation and AI projects deliver the desired transformational impact. Perhaps most importantly, demonstrating the required leadership to foster a learning culture may be your most important enabler for future success.

Automation frees humans from mundane, repetitive work, liberating us to work on more strategic and value-added items. Automation is the muscle needed to be competitive today; AI is the brain which will enable future competitive advantage. That said, AI is not good at jobs that require creativity, empathy, critical thinking, leadership, artistic expression, and many other qualities we call “human." Humans are the soul that provide needed vision, purpose, and direction for AI.

Automation and AI will make us more human

The U.S. government (along with the governments of many other countries) has written about the impact of automation and AI on the economy of the future. According to "Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy," a 2016 report by the Executive Office of the President: “AI-driven automation will continue to create wealth and expand the American economy in the coming years, but, while many will benefit, that growth will not be costless and will be accompanied by changes in the skills that workers need to succeed in the economy, and structural changes in the economy."

Yes, after humans enable successful automation and AI projects, the resulting systems will augment human skills. Humans and machines—working together—will make us better at our jobs. It will also enable us to become even more human.

In the future, uniquely human skills will be in even more demand. Communication, creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, collaboration, and cognitive flexibility will become more important abilities. To best prepare for this future, leaders should emphasize continual learning and skill development throughout one's career.

Prior to entering the workforce, we can encourage our children to seek broad educational experiences, such as those found at liberal arts colleges. And after entering the workforce, we need to change our mental paradigm. We must change from: first 20 years for education, then the next 40 years for working (and then retirement) to: first 20 years for education, then next 40 years for continual learning on the job (and then retirement). In this manner, we will continue to develop our human skills.

As Albert Einstein stated, knowledge is finite, but human imagination will carry us forward.


About Dan Glessner - Vice President, Digital

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