People: the critical factor in AI’s successful adoption

Curium | 27 Jun 2019 | News | General News

People: the critical factor in AI’s successful adoption

In this blog, Kathryn Hobbs casts her eye over AI and robotics stories, and finds one common theme: people.

This week, a story in The Guardian caught my eye. It’s title, ‘Rapid robot rollout risks UK workers being left behind’, played to fears concerning technological advances, artificial intelligence (AI) and human obsolescence.

It quoted a YouGov poll, which said that over the past five years, 80% of the people polled had seen their role change because of new technology. Despite the potential impact on employees, few had the opportunity to influence how and where new technology is used in their workplace.

At the same time, I read ‘Building the AI-powered organisation’ in the latest Harvard Business Review. It is based on McKinsey data and is well worth a read. It reminded me of James Farrow’s thoughts in our own AI and robotics report. In it, the Curium Director and Co-founder says:

“Empowering companies to become AI driven is as much about changing employee mindsets as it is about technology, possibly more so. But, in our experience, leaders can get more excited about technology and focus less on people. As with any change, people are the critical factor.”

There’s no doubt that AI, in all its forms, and robotics have the potential to transform the ways we live and work. McKinsey estimates that AI-powered applications will add US$13 trillion in value to the global economy in the coming decade.

However, while conditions seem set fair for companies to embrace new technologies, many are not. Only 8% of organisations engage in core practices that support widespread adoption. Research suggests that the biggest barriers are cultural and organisational, requiring leaders who have the skills to break down those barriers and move from:

  • Siloed work to interdisciplinary collaboration
  • Experience-based, leader-driven to data-drive decision making
  • Rigid and risk averse to agile, experimental and adaptable

Each of these are changes for individuals to make. There’s no quick fix; no ‘plug and play’ solution. Leaders need to communicate and sustain a vision of their organisation’s AI future, make investment decisions and priority calls that back this vision; and share successes and lessons learned.

Empathy too is required. If ever there were a case for the benefits of inclusive leadership: harnessing the collective talents of the team, then this is it.

“If AI and robotics are to form part of your business strategy, just ensure that you update your people strategy to build a sustainable improvement across your organisation,” adds James.

People will be the critical factor in the successful adoption or implementation of AI. Organisations should think carefully about how to engage and empower their employees if they want them to change.

Curium’s reports on AI and robotics and inclusive leadership are available online.

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