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How to be a leader in an AI-powered world
Duke Corporate Education’s president of Global Markets says leaders must remember to maintain humanity and empathy, and not rely solely on algorithms to make decisions.
“The age of AI is upon us.”
This is a bullish quote from Microsoft’s CEO and chairman Satya Nadella during the company’s most recent earnings call. It certainly feels this way as recent hype around the public release of ChatGPT reinvigorated discussions around AI in the mainstream. This is not the first, nor will it be the last, time we question the impact of AI on jobs, businesses, and the world-at-large.
A recent PWC survey on AI found that 52% of companies accelerated their AI adoption plans in the last year, while IDC forecasts worldwide spending on AI is expected to surpass $300 billion by 2026.
To understand this face-paced growth of AI, let’s first talk about what the technology actually does. At its most basic level, AI is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines. It allows computers to learn, reason, and make decisions just like humans do, but at a scale and speed that is impossible for us to match.
The combination of advances in computing power, the availability of big data, and increasing investments in AI in recent years led by large tech companies such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, continue to accelerate AI growth and we can expect to see even more innovative applications and use cases emerge.
AI is increasingly seen as a critical technology for driving business growth and cannot be ignored in order to remain competitive and relevant.
So, how can we, as business leaders, navigate this complex and ever-evolving AI-powered world?
STAY CURIOUS AND DON’T STRAY FROM YOUR CORE BUSINESS OBJECTIVES
Leaders need to stay curious and adaptive. When it comes to AI, it can be a little intimidating, especially if you don’t have a technical background, but don’t let that stop you from embracing this technology. You don’t need to become an AI expert overnight, but you should have a general understanding of what AI is, how it works, and what its potential applications are within your organization.
It’s also easy to get caught up in the hype around AI and feel like you need to implement it in every aspect of your organization. But remember, AI is just one tool in your leadership toolbox. It’s important to focus on the big picture and think strategically about where and how AI can add value to your organization. Don’t use AI just for the sake of using AI. Make sure it aligns with your organization’s goals and values and you are able to effectively communicate this to all your stakeholders: employees, investors, and customers.
START SMALL AND ITERATE
You don’t have to go all-in right away. Start small and focus on a specific problem or use case. For example, you could use AI to automate routine tasks like data entry or customer service inquiries. Once you’ve had some success, you can build on that momentum and tackle bigger challenges.
And remember, AI is still a relatively new technology, so it’s important to iterate and improve as you go. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or try something that doesn’t work out. Adopt the mentality of Google where Eric Schmidt said: “We celebrate our failures. This is a company where it is absolutely okay to try something that is very hard, have it not be successful, take the learning and apply it to something new.”
PEOPLE MATTER MORE THAN EVER
While AI can do amazing things, it still lacks the emotional intelligence and creativity that humans possess. Our ability to build trusted relationships will become the scarcer resource as machines learn to do the routinized and data-heavy workflows better than us. Hence, it requires you to focus on the talent pipeline more than ever.
On one hand, you need to be willing to invest in education and training, cultivate partnerships with experts in the field, and foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement. On the other, you need to reassess the skills that are important in an AI-powered workplace. For example, critical thinking, effective communication, adaptability to technology, and the ability to build and maintain relationships with others are human skills that will remain valuable and in demand.
As leaders, we must also remember to maintain our own humanity and empathy, and not rely solely on algorithms to make decisions. Remember, AI is a tool to enhance our capabilities, not replace them.
CREATE A DIVERSE, HIGH-PERFORMANCE TEAM
Leaders must understand that AI is only as unbiased as the data it’s trained on. If the data contains biases or discrimination, those biases will be reflected in the output of the AI system. This could lead to misinformation and discriminatory outcomes in areas such as hiring, lending, and criminal justice.
We must assemble diverse, high-performance teams to work on AI initiatives. This includes not only technical experts but also people from different backgrounds and perspectives. By building a team with a range of experiences and viewpoints, you can ensure that your AI initiatives are inclusive and ethical.
Ultimately, AI is a technology that is here to disrupt and transform the way we do business. At the heart of this transformation is a shift from traditional models of leadership to a new paradigm that emphasizes agility, adaptability, and a willingness to embrace change.
Leaders who are able to cultivate a culture of innovation and experimentation, build high-performance teams that can work collaboratively with machines, and effectively communicate the benefits of AI to stakeholders will be best positioned to thrive in the years ahead.