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- 18 Aug 2015
Posted by: Kendall Hogg

Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Expanding Technology...Can Organisational Leadership Keep Up?

When the age of computers arrived, the primary fear posed by the machines and the abundance of data they processed was their combined ability to complete tasks formerly performed by humans, and initially destroying jobs in the process. More recently, fear of what is possible is best summarised by the view of Stephen Hawking, who commented in 2014: "The development of full artificial intelligence (AI) could spell the end of the human race." (BBC, Dec 2 2014)

Today, data combined with machine-learning algorithms are able to support decisions of many routine tasks, and ultimately assist with improving the efficiency of many organisations.

What may not be actively discussed is the leadership challenge in determining what computers, artificial intelligence and big data do now and what they're likely to do in the future. It is leaders, not technology, who possess the ability to make inferences, judge and decide. But for leaders to keep up in an age of AI and Big Data, they must do what great leaders to best: clearly communicate how an organisation's strategic vision and objectives can be enhanced through new and evolving technologies.

Convey the Importance of Embedding Big Data and Artificial Intelligence in Organisational Processes

Succeeding with Big Data and AI requires leaders to take a new approach to ensure that data and the insights it can provide, and intelligent analysis are socialised and available throughout the company. Doing so ensures the scale benefits that a Big Data and AI can provide.

Spell out AI and Big Data Ambitions  

Spelling out a company's aims, its reason for being, and the strategies it adopts to achieve those objectives is the domain of leadership. In regards to AI and Big Data, organisational leaders must declare their ambitions. For example, adopting Big Data and AI by incorporating advanced analytics and machine learning as key elements of all critical decisions.

Relate the Importance of Big Data and AI to Organisational Performance

To achieve the employee behaviour change that maximising the benefits of Big Data and AI requires, leaders must state how these tools will improve overall performance. For instance, AI and Big Data can support a company's efforts to improve products and services, enhance internal processes, create new products or transform business models.

Overcome Resistance to the Use of Big Data and AI

The world of technology is continually changing and resistance to leveraging the full extent of new business tools that aggregate data and assist with decision making is very high in some labour driven businesses.   There is a perceived threat to jobs and tasks that were once the total domain of human intelligence.  Overcoming internal resistance and intentional or unintentional sabotage requires a level of transparency, education and understanding of how the organisation intends to supplement activities with Big Data and AI. 

A well thought out strategy and implementation plan is key to fully leveraging the biggest benefit of all – the combined knowledge of human and artificial intelligence for greater achievements and possibilities.  It is not an either/or equation, but one that compounds the strength of each contribution.  Freeing human creativity and innovation does not mean replacing people, it means liberating their activities to expand performance in ways that were impossible without supporting data and mechanical reasoning systems. 

Being able to leverage the irrational and illogical brilliance of people leads to magnificent opportunities.  Big Data and AI simply provides a rational way to deploy and implement that brilliance.  

Define Owners and Sponsors for Big Data and AI Initiatives

The key to successfully implementing any major organisational transformation is gaining early credibility for the initiatives being proposed.  Clarity and compelling reasons that are meaningful, transparent and understood by the work environment are foundation pillars for future success.  Search out internal leaders and champions that can sponsor direct action and meaningful support through the implementation phases.

As organisational leaders, it is imperative to be aware of the possibilities, and explore new areas of productivity gains through Big Data and AI, and in doing so, reach out for support within your organisation.  There are very few road maps that have a straight line between two destinations, and indeed, there are often numerous pathways leading to the same destination.  Keeping up, does not mean being overwhelmed by the noise of possibilities, or becoming paralysed by choices, it simply means creating a map of where you are and where you would like to be – and realise you are not alone in the challenge.  Confront the future with a deliberate course of action and gain a competitive edge.

Keogh has been helping individuals and companies unpack their brilliance for over 30 years, and we’d love to hear from you!  Please call us

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