How to make the transition into the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI) easier for everyone?

The secret to success in this fast-changing digital environment lies in creating a harmonious collaboration that blends the power of AI with the irreplaceable human touch.

While AI excels at improving efficiency and automating routine tasks, it’s the qualities that make us human – judgment, creativity, emotional intelligence, and adaptability – that form the basis of competitive differentiation.

When organizations embrace AI as a powerful collaborative tool to enhance human performance – integrating AI technologies into workflows in ways that allow employees to unleash their full creative potential and deliver exceptional customer service – they will stand out from their competitors in an AI-dominated world.

What is AI?

AI is a sub-discipline of Information Technology (IT) and engineering and is used to build systems and machines that can think and learn similarly to humans.

AI stands at the forefront of digital transformation. It involves using algorithms and machine learning to automate tasks that traditionally require human intelligence. These may include mastering tasks such as object recognition (speech, image), language processing and decision-making.

What skills are really required to work with AI?

The digital revolution is underway; if we are to thrive in a world driven by data and powered by algorithms, we must learn to see, think, and act in new ways. That doesn’t mean we need to become technologists who must master coding, algorithms, AI, machine learning, robotics, and who-knows-what’s-next.

1.     Technical skills in AI will depend on the nature of the job

Different audiences will require varying levels of expertise depending on how they interact with AI. Those involved in developing AI systems or teaching advanced AI classes will need specialist AI knowledge and skills, but this will only apply to a minority of people.

The majority of employees will need to have sufficient knowledge of AI and its applications; that is, to understand how algorithms work and how they can facilitate and enhance decision-making, while recognizing the limitations and possible biases of the system. Effectively interacting with AI systems will enable users to interpret and contextualize AI-generated information in a meaningful way to make informed decisions.

We might call this dual competence, in that people combine their domain-specific skills with AI knowledge. Such dual skills are essential for high-performance teams using AI systems, as well as for senior management in AI-enabled organizations.

Faced with this daunting challenge, perhaps the best approach would be to focus our learning efforts on ‘just enough, just-in-time, and just-for-me’ and give up perfectionism. Tsedal Neeley, in her book "The Digital Mindset", argues that most people will be able to achieve decent digital literacy by following the "30% rule" – the minimum threshold of skills needed to understand and use digital tools autonomously to take advantage of the world we live in.

2.     ‘Future-proofing’ our skills

The concept of ‘Future proofing’ is all about anticipating and preparing for potential future changes and challenges, spotting emerging trends and devising strategies to mitigate their impact.

Although it is difficult to predict the specific skills that will be required for the future of work over an unpredictable time horizon, there are a number of qualities and skills that will unquestionably be essential to success in a world increasingly dominated by AI.

·  Judgment and critical thinking: Although AI can analyze data and provide insights, it lacks the ability to make contextual judgments and decisions based on nuanced considerations. Human professionals bring their experience, intuition, and critical thinking skills to the table, allowing them to navigate complex situations and make informed choices.

·  Curiosity, creativity, and innovation: While AI excels at finding patterns in existing data, it struggles to generate new ideas or break out of predefined boundaries. Humans, on the other hand, are able to combine disparate concepts, grasp ambiguities and come up with innovative solutions that push the limits of what is possible to adapt to changing circumstances.

· Social and emotional intelligence: Building meaningful connections and understanding human emotions are areas where AI falls short. Employees with a high level of emotional intelligence can communicate clearly, deal with the complexities of interpersonal relationships and keep their emotions in check. This human touch is essential in managerial roles, in customer service and in sales, where building trust is critical.

·  Resilience and adaptability: Building resilience and adaptability is essential to cope with the pressures and setbacks associated with an uncertain future.

·  A mindset of lifelong learning: Staying competitive in a technology-driven world requires a passion for lifelong learning, to develop transferable skills across a wide range of sectors. Curiosity, experimentation, and knowledge sharing are key to stay abreast of emerging trends, technologies, and best practices.

3.     The human touch to complement AI capabilities

While AI excels at processing vast amounts of data, identifying patterns, and automating routine tasks, it cannot replicate human qualities. It is important to recognize that AI cannot possibly create sustainable competitive advantage on its own. If you can use AI to achieve something, so can all your competitors. The human dimension, which includes judgment, creativity, innovation, and emotional intelligence, remains crucial to sustain competitive advantage in today's highly competitive business environment.

Final thoughts

We need to think of AI as a powerful resource that can assist and augment human creative abilities and workmanship, rather than replace them. In most knowledge-intensive tasks, workers will more likely find themselves enhanced by partnerships with machines than automated out of a job.

Nevertheless, increased automation and digitalization of tasks, along with evolving business practices, will require many workers to learn new skills. In its ‘2020 Future of Jobs report’, the World Economic Forum estimates that the qualifications required to fill existing jobs are set to change by around 40% between 2020 and 2025. So let's get ready for the major changes ahead.

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