By Stéphane Amarsy,
CEO of D-AIM
For businesses today, it’s impossible to stay competitive without AI. Not a day passes without news of major companies investing in AI-specific technologies. Gaining a competitive edge will therefore come from human capital. Future champions will play on a level playing field of technological capabilities, where innovation, creativity and communication also enhance the customer experience. Now is the time to invest in people and the collaboration between humans and machines. We need only understand how to prepare for it.
A people-centric corporate strategy
Technological convergence is inevitable and, as a result, the competitive advantage will come from human capital. In today’s society, the primary concern is if—and when—machines will replace humans. Meanwhile, preparing for successful human-machine collaboration is often overlooked. However, workplace automation must be seen not in terms of jobs and professions but rather as tasks. Considering a task as more suited to humans than algorithms has as much to do with social hierarchies and power dynamics as real technical capabilities. Businesses need to redefine the way they assign tasks. They must identify which tasks can be automated or assigned to algorithms and which tasks should remain in human hands. This distinction, which is based on automation’s potential for meeting our qualitative expectations, will evolve with technological advances. Let’s take the example of a chatbot for e-commerce customers. In this case, the limit depends on the chatbot’s ability to answer questions accurately. While this is easy with delivery time and status, a product’s features or even its use, it becomes near impossible with specific problems or defects.
What knowledge and skills should companies focus on? Today’s buzzwords are creativity, innovation, communication and “soft skills” in general. But how is this translated into concrete terms? We shouldn’t expect a sudden shift but rather a gradual transformation. The priority issue is aligning corporate vision with associated needs. After that, we can define the steps that will take us there. Each step effect change on its own terms, delegating tasks such as operational decision-making and choosing the best offer for a specific customer. Then we can build new capacities: adapting messages, creative leveraging and, of course, using new tools. The main challenge is to change our way of working and understanding the world.
This approach has implications beyond the business world as well. We must reconsider education—school and university—and seriously question the relationship between society and work or individuals and the workplace. Without this, there will be an even greater discrepancy between demand and the number of people trained to a sufficient level of expertise.
For companies to succeed in the future, they must dig deep and move towards a clear and common goal. If they don’t, they won’t be capable of meeting the conditions necessary for success will be left behind. Adding technology for the sake of increasing productivity is a grave error. While necessary, it’s simply not enough for technology to serve an overall vision of which humans, both as consumers and collaborators, are a part. When it comes to initiating change, I recommend starting by assessing which tasks are best suited to automation. This will identify the potential for saving time. Let’s say there are five creative topics we want to develop. Time saved will then go to projects—if possible, disruptive innovations—that can be chosen collectively. Progress will involve assessing the “antifragile” dimension of each initiative and regularly inviting professionals from other fields to creativity sessions. Divergence must be placed before convergence, while your desires, fears, qualities and shortcomings in relation to future needs should be identified.
Such an approach will, seamlessly and experientially, put humans back into a working environment with new virtual coworkers. In addition, a comprehensive project and vision must be set up to support this team-centered approach. Each company will find its way, which is necessarily unique and constantly evolving.
There is no final destination: technologies do not develop linearly, but rather according to disruptions. For better or worse, the future of work will involve people who pave the way for human-machine collaboration. We must now re-engineer the interaction between algorithms, which are automated and autonomous, and humans. And companies that manage to achieve this will certainly invent a post-digital world of disruption.