Making forecasts is a well-established end of year tradition, and the end of 2015 has been no exception. But have you noticed that this season’s forecasts for the coming year have been unusually uncertain?
Here’s one forecast though that we’d be prepared to bet on: that pronouncements about robots and artificial intelligence will be all the rage. So far the smart money has been talking up the potential for work that is routinised, and based on the manipulation of databases, and that doesn’t require a lot of emotional intelligence, to be handed to the new generation of robots – just look at what the great and the good of World Business has been saying at Davos this year.
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Once you start to think about this though, it becomes clear that, for robots to gain substantial ground, somebody is going to have to take some strategic decisions: how to recognise future success, where robots are most likely to create value in achieving this success, and how they might be introduced, used and managed in a way that will deliver the intended results.
But where are these important decisions going to be taken? At this point, we’re prepared to bet that there will be a lot of deep sighs, followed by an anxious silence.
Why? Because the obvious people to look to are our business executive leaders, and their teams. Yet so often what we hear is that the responsibilities and behaviour of the executive team is not strategic. It is (a) routinised (b) based on the manipulation of databases and (c) doesn’t require a lot of emotional intelligence. But wait – haven’t we just heard that these are just the kinds of roles that could be most suitable for replacement with the new artificial intelligence?
Perhaps this suggests that, as a first step, there should be less of a rush to install more robots, and more of a thrust to transform the roles and behaviour of the top team. Unless of course you want to free up the time and creativity of the top team by first bringing in robots to do their current jobs??
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