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To people management, now add AI management.

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger

As organisations emerge from the pandemic the focus will be on managements ability to adjust to the new normal. There is already much talk about the need for agile organisations in recognition that the pandemic has moved the pace of change from fast to faster and faster. This is especially the case in relation to the application of technology and our attitude towards it. Many senior managers are not equipped for what I have previously referred to as the Great Leap Forward.

The pandemic has highlighted just how important Emotional Intelligence (EI) is as a characteristic of effective managers. People management skills, that is the ability to energise, enthuse , encourage and support employees through a period of change and uncertainty have come to the forefront in recent times. Such skills will always be necessary as change is an ever present reality of management. However the arrival of AI means that in future leaders will require an additional skill- the ability to win an argument with a superior intelligence.

Have you watched The Big Bang Theory or similar programs which mine humour from the inability of “nerds “ to relate to the rest of us despite their superior intelligence. Well in all likely hood AI will be nerdy. Firstly because it’s designed by nerds and secondly because being very rational and totally unemotional it is likely to be very literal. In the Big Bang Theory one of the reoccurring comic themes is the inability of the main character to identify sarcasm, although he can give the dictionary definition.

In the not to distant future it will become apparent that AI’s ability to process massive amounts of data, make accurate projections and maintain a detached objectivity will mean it has better business judgment than humans. At which point there is a danger that organisation’s place too much faith in AI and senior managers become intimidated by AI superior knowledge/ability. The answer is not to try and make AI more human, which would be like trying to teaching a computer to write jokes, but to develop managers skills in using this sophisticated management tool.

In this future managers and business leaders would be challenging the cost and efficiency arguments put forward by AI in much the same way as they would counter the accountants business case. That is with ethical considerations about how employees should be treated, how business should be conducted, environmental considerations and the social consequences. To win an argument with AI you have to introduce values.

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