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Artificial Intelligence will change our lives sooner than we realise

Are you ready?

Is your organisation ready?

It was whilst attending a client’s ‘Disrupt17’ conference, that the enormous implications of AI were first felt. Together with business leaders, I listened to influential Silicon Valley speakers, from the think tank of Singularity University to RocketSpace, the world-renowned tech incubator that helped the likes of Spotify and Uber get off the ground.

Until that moment, I had underestimated the long-term changes that this technology will bring – to every industry, every organisation and every job.

And, it’s because of the huge leaps in machine learning, speech recognition, mapping and visual-recognition technology, that artificial intelligence [AI] is quite literally walking off the pages of sci-fi books and into our lives.

This isn’t just about self-driving cars and virtual butlers. Those Facebook photos you’re tagged in? That’s AI. So are our Netflix recommendations, Spotify playlists and Google and Skype translators that enable us to talk to anyone in the world in any language. Don’t take my word for it. Ask Alexa, your Amazon Echo voice-controlled butler. If you don’t have one yet, you’ll soon be able to ask Apple’s Siri to order one and have it delivered the same day, anywhere you find yourself.

AI is spreading so fast, it’ll soon be integrated into almost everything we touch, kick-starting what many are calling the ‘fourth-industrial revolution’ – the first being steam engines, the second oil and electricity and the third computers.

The only difference, analysts say, is this new revolution is likely to be 10 times faster, 300 times the scale and have 3,000 times the impact of others because once computers invade the physical world and start making autonomous, intelligent decisions, the opportunities are limitless.

But, despite all the advantages that AI will generate, few doubt it will also spell redundancy for many. A recent report by the National Bureau of Economic Research in the United States quantifies the problem in stark terms.

It argues that jobs are already being lost to AI and are unlikely to come back. For example, robots called Sam [semi-automated mason] are already beginning to replace brickies in America and will arrive in Europe any day. They can lay up to 3,000 bricks a day compared with the human average of 500 – all without fag breaks!

PWC estimates that almost a third of existing UK jobs may be automated away over the next 15 years. That’s a lot. And, it’s not merely routine jobs. Professional services are also threatened. Automated services such as SimpleTax, KashFlow and Rocket Lawyer which prepare annual accounts and tax returns and do simple legal tasks are putting human lawyers and accountants out of work.

Counter to this, Silicon Valley argues that AI will create way more new jobs than it will destroy. Today, millions of people work as app developers, virtual-world designers, self-drive car researchers, designers and makers, ride-sharing drivers, social media marketers – jobs that not only did not exist but would have been difficult to imagine 10 years ago.

What is known is that all of us will be affected. Our jobs will change. The way we work will change. And, the organisations we work for will change.

So, as per my article title, the question is: Are you ready for change? Is your organisation ready for change?

And, here lies our greatest challenge. As humans, we naturally fear change. We find comfort in routines, habits and what feels familiar. Even the changes that we choose for ourselves pose some difficulty and readjustment. 

In our recently published book, ‘Why We Do What We Do’ – authored by Dr Helena Boschi, a psychologist who focuses on applied neuroscience in the workplace – we look at why most change efforts in organisations fail.

To get ready for change, whether as individuals or as an organisation, here are some critical questions to answer:

  • Why is change happening and how will people respond to it?
  • How will the change affect the organisation – internally and externally?
  • How will you get your people to drive the change themselves?

Our approach would be to apply neuroscience in the any change programme and work with our clients to take the following five steps:

  1. Understand why the brain hates change, how habits are formed and why these topics need to be addressed as a critical starting point
  2. Articulate why this change is important to the business, what is involved and whom it affects
  3. Acknowledge the potential impact risks and minimise these early on
  4. Practise new skills and thinking during real and relevant scenarios (designed specifically for the change)
  5. Equip leaders with customised tools that motivate and mobilise change efforts

The book will be available to buy directly from Lansons at bookorders@lansons.com.

This article is part of our Autumn 2017 newsletter