As we return to the mountains of Davos for the 2019 World Economic Forum, it’s worth taking a step back to celebrate the figurative mountains we, as leaders, have moved this past year.
In 2019, many of us have broken new ground across our industries and society as a whole, evolving towards a future where businesses become instinctive: where predictive insights become ubiquitous; adaptive workforces become more purpose-driven; and connected ecosystems join unlikely partners for the benefit of customers and consumers alike. This future can exist because artificial intelligence (AI) is reaching a point of maturity to create the means to get us there.
AI now has an undeniable presence in our everyday lives, from ride-share apps, to tailored advertisements, to Alexa, and beyond. Now, we as leaders need to continue to grow AI as a critical enabler of what is possible in the future.
However, to continue the tremendous progress that has already been made and accelerate AI to make even more societal impact, it is incumbent upon us as leaders to lead the way in changing the narrative around AI.
We are at the forefront of a truly exciting movement. Attitudes are shifting as AI thrives across verticals, opening the door for tangible change. Leaders need to harness and accelerate these evolving attitudes and channel them into action to best prepare for the future.
It is our responsibility as business leaders to build companies for tomorrow, to create ecosystems and enterprises that are instinctive and don’t just react to, but influence the world around them. In order to do that, we need to close any remaining gaps between the perception of AI versus its potential. Here’s how:
1. Build truly “bilingual” workforces
I am a firm believer that the future of business relies heavily on complementary skills. Both business skills and technical skills will be increasingly indispensable, and therefore employees need to be fluent in both domain (industry) and data (analytics). Further, the “bilingualism” of instinctive enterprises is not just technical and business combined, but also requires right brain and left brain thinking.
I hope I can do my part in changing the narrative around AI by helping to dispel the belief that things like STEM, computer science, and data security will eclipse all other skillsets. Yes, those things are important and always will be, but right-brained thinking, creativity, and transcendent ideas are what drives change. When menial tasks are automated, the human race will be free to access and embrace their creative skills. It’s the combination of creativity and hard skills that creates the magic that I live for.
2. Make reskilling a mandate rather than a conversation point
Conversations about reskilling were vibrant at last year’s WEF conference, but now it’s time for business leaders to “walk the walk”. We all know the benefits of upskilling and retraining, and why it is necessary to have a highly flexible workforce. We now need to shift focus on the how and what, and take real action.
Businesses owe it to their employees to make technology more accessible by instating dedicated reskilling initiatives that prepare their employees and future generations to work alongside AI, which means assuming careers that have never existed before. Robots will not replace jobs, but instead make more, high value-added roles for humans for years to come.
Just as I believe in the vast potential of AI, I believe in continuous learning. I consider myself a perpetual student as well as a teacher. We need to encourage our current workforces to be eager students, learning how to work with AI and other emerging technologies. When eager students become more highly skilled than their instructors, and think bigger than them thanks to new skillsets, that is when positive change accelerates.
3. Take tangible steps to prevent AI bias
Bias is another prevalent concern preventing the full adoption of AI processes. All of us need to know that we can trust these emerging technologies, especially when their algorithms are used to make important decisions.
The C-suite needs to keep in mind that this is still an area where we need to go slow to go fast. We all must continue taking the necessary steps to prevent technology bias and keep the lines of communication to employees and customers open to address any concerns.
The good news is that in 2018 alone, we saw the world take major steps in better understanding AI, leading to a more conscious approach to applying its systems in an unbiased way.
In pursuit of a universal set of AI ethics, various cutting-edge AI institutions have been established at some of the world’s finest universities, encouraging more great minds to take on questions of AI bias, ethics, and regulation. The more effort we devote to AI education, the less we will see cases of AI bias misrepresenting the goals of its advanced analytics.
The future is positive
As we approach WEF 2019, I look forward to discussing how to keep up the amazing momentum we’ve already made in the area of AI with other business leaders and innovative thinkers. I also look forward to sharing some new research from Genpact that offers real perspectives of executives and workers on AI adoption and readiness today. I am confident that conversations around these findings will drive positive change as the narrative around AI continues to evolve.
If we are thoughtful and strategic in our discussions and decisions in Davos and beyond, we will return in 2020 to share even more success stories of mountains moved by AI. For this to be possible, leaders must respond to this call to action. This is our opportunity to fully change the narrative around AI, and truly make the most of this remarkable moment in time.