Getting on with AI

At the 2017 Robot Art Competition, robotic painters produced paintings like graduating art students, described as ‘aesthetically ambiguous’. The bearded face of a man stares out from one canvas, another depicts human emotion with jagged, gloomy stripes of black and purple.

AI is a field of computer science that mimics the natural learning process of the human brain by creating artificial neural networks. Developing machines that think is not new. World War II code-breaker and mathematician Alan Turing trailblazed the idea. Virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri use AI engines to respond to enquiries. Siri can learn by using the feedback it gets to refine the results it provides. That’s why you can ask Siri to call ‘Dad’, once you’ve told it what name in your contacts is your father.

Most of us don’t intimately feel the impact of AI in our lives, or perhaps recognize it as the engine behind Siri, for example. And some of us assume ‘not in my lifetime’. Since WWII, we have come a long way. And with Google, Facebook and Microsoft investing heavily in AI systems, the future will start to look a lot closer.

AI is already advanced enough to enter into companies by way of virtual assistants, and in industries such as banking, as virtual tellers and advisors. AIs are good at processing huge amounts of data, and that’s valuable for services such as fraud detection and security surveillance. They are being used in law and medicine, not only to read and assess documents but to make recommendations, while advances in robotics are allowing doctors to perform surgeries remotely. It’s possible that soon simple surgeries will be performed by AI. South Korea has already introduced a tax on robots. They fear robots may take away jobs leading to mass unemployment. And Elon Musk is worried about AI. Speaking from a vantage point of being intimate with cutting-edge AI tech, he thinks AI could pose a threat to humanity. An AI already exists that can solve the Raven Progressive Matrices Test, an intelligence test of visual and analogical reasoning, better than the average American. Then there is Pepper, the humanoid robot featured in the cover picture, designed to read emotions by analyzing expressions and voice tones. (See this interview with Pepper.)

In future, diversity at work will include AI’s

We should learn to get on well, says Benjamin Wolh in his article How artificial intelligence and the robotic revolution will change the workplace of tomorrow, because diversity at work in the future will certainly include AIs. If robots are great at many things we don’t like or are not very good at, such as performing repetitive, monotonous tasks; concentrating for long periods of time, and quickly searching vast databases of information, we should welcome automation of tasks. You could do a better job focusing on what you have been specially evolved to be good at. But what are we specially evolved for? What does it means to be human, and what’s deeply valuable about that?

In a sense, that’s part of the problem. Liz Ryan, Founder of the Human Workplace, will tell you that we have lost a bit of humanity in the workplace:

‘There are people in this world who cannot tell you what they think and what they believe. They simply don’t know. They are programmed to be the person they think someone in authority — a hiring authority, for instance — wants them to be.’

For a long time, we have been working hard at squeezing out the nebulous, ‘hard-to-control-and-measure’ human factor. We have believed that doing so will make us more efficient. Given that creativity and FLOW at work (beyond just engagement) are now being recognised for their critical role in innovation, we’ll have to start addressing that, soon. Perhaps AI will force us to speed things up.

Working alongside machines will involve learning how to be better at being human.

Michael Harré, AI enthusiast and lecturer in Complex Systems at the University of Sydney, says that living and working with AI will push us to rethink basic assumptions about our sense of self. He believes that we will have to revise what we think consciousness actually is. Preparing for a robotic future of working more alongside machines, will force us to learn how to be better at being human.

The truth is, AI is coming for a lot of the jobs we know now. Whole careers will be innovated out of existence. But we will also innovate whole new careers into existence. People who are flexible and open to learning will continue to be in demand, says Harré, as will those who are more willing to be agile within the jobs they take.

We need to rethink what it means to be human, and what’s deeply valuable about that. Given we’ve spent a lot of time taking the human elements out of workplace, that’s going to be a big shift for some.

 

“If you’ve always done it that way, it’s probably wrong.”  

– Charles Kettering, holder of 186 patents.

We tend to concentrate on things we already know, and time and time again, we fail to take into consideration what we don’t know. This focus on the familiar has costs. It was Nassim Taleb in his book Black Swan who pointed out that banks and firms are vulnerable to rare and unpredictable events called “Black Swan” events, that incurred losses beyond those predicted by their financial models. As humans, we have a tendency to find simplistic explanations for these events retrospectively. Taleb is not advocating that we attempt to predict Black Swan events, but rather that we should build a robustness in the face of those negative ones, and that we should exploit the positive ones that occur too.

In thinking about his ideas, what if we could to do more of this in our workplaces?

  • Unlock the ideas and contributions of more than just the usual suspects like those in positions of leadership, those in traditionally defined and recognized professions, or those who shout the loudest
  • Expect and encourage more than one right answer in solving complex challenges – rather than assuming that a right answer already exists
  • Make ‘thinking deeply’ about new answers welcome and not viewed as wasting time (this thinking has been described as a desirable form of procrastination at work, and was referenced by a panel on ‘Creativity as a business resource’ at the recent Leaderex 2017 conference in JHB)
  • Make it possible for your employees to find and create connections between ideas, visions, offerings, challenges, so that we build new visions in place of over-relying on what worked in the past
  • Get commitment to making it happen – not through sharing a vision, but through engaging people in the process of thinking deeply about, constructing and connecting all the possible ways of doing things.

So how do we closing the knowing-doing gap? There are practices and methods to assist.

Facilitated sessions using Lego, for example, can be used to set constructive, participatory, insight-rich working grounds. A facilitated LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® session can open access to new ideas, locate challenges, create visions and ways forward, and secure stronger commitment to making things happen. By ensuring everyone participates and contributes, time spent together can be more efficient and productive. Here is a bank of case studies using Lego: http://seriousplaypro.com/category/serious-play-case-studies/

There is also a method to form teams that respect, encourage and develop a diversity of game changing contribution. I speak widely already about the GCIndex and its applications so I am not devoting more time to it here.

The reality is, in current workplaces, long-term business success is not down to one person with one idea, nor is creativity the job of one department. There are many new ways of doing, methods, tools, assessments. We just need to provoke our appetite to try some of them out. Don’t we? #mindset

blackswanshadow

By Gaylin Jee 

Accenture launched their Technology Vision report earlier this year, which identifies the top IT trends impacting organisations over the next 3 years. The theme of the report is “Technology for people, by People”.  They say this people empowering focus is not just an idea. Rather, it’s a real and purposeful call to action. Because with great opportunity comes great responsibility, and everyone needs a share in both if we, as individuals and as a collective, are aiming to shape a positive future for all.

Leaders, unsurprisingly, have a weighty role to play. They can actively design tech so that it augments and amplifies human capability. Human amplification, according to Accenture, can unleash unimagined levels of creativity, ingenuity and productivity. If played fervently, this amplification role of leaders could help people to do more, to achieve more. Indifferent, unresponsive, or even hostile approaches to tech (yes we see them all in business still), are likely to obstruct the important job of rethinking and re-establishing the company place in the next evolution of business and society.

Tech Trends 2017 Accenture

Here are the 5 trends from the report they say we should be working with, and not against:

  1. AI is the new UI: AI will become the new user interface (UI)—underpinning the way we transact and interact with systems.
  2. From platform to eco-system. We need a rich and robust ecosystem, not just a platform strategy, to lead in the era of intelligence.
  3. Workforce Marketplace: The traditional hierarchy is still dying, and it’s being replaced with a ‘workforce marketplace’. In this future you do the inventing, people. You participate in an open talent exchange, as employees, freelancers and crowdsourced workers. Intelligent companies design for this model.
  4. Design for Humans: In place of learning how to use tech, we teach tech how to enhance our lives, and make them better. Tech learns to adapt to how we behave as humans. An interesting trend, read more – Design for Humans: Inspire New Behaviors.
  5. The Uncharted: We increasingly go beyond new products and services, to new digital industries. That means new standards must be set, and there are newfound responsibilities to define the associated regulations and ethical norms.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the impact of technology innovations can be positive, because the power lies with us ̶ with people.” – Paul Daugherty, Accenture.

Paul makes a good point. We can adapt technology to fit our needs. We’ve just got to make that personal choice, to opt in, so we can get savvy about it.

By Gaylin Jee

“The last time you had an original idea, what did you do with it?” Adam Grant

Originals QuoteWe’re still using yesterday’s models and hoping they will solve tomorrow’s challenges. That’s not impossible, but it will become increasingly unrewarding. The impending World Economic Forum’s Fourth Industrial Revolution will radically shift life as we know it. Technology will be at the core of most work, whatever form work will take. Digital transformation will make way for digital sustainability, and innovation hubs and heroes will only take you part of the way. End states and narrow, short-term profits are yesterday’s goals.

Yet some see and create worlds of opportunity amidst this rapid ‘chaos’. We assume these people are innately creative, natural-born natural leaders, or that people who have a larger purpose and impact in the world are ‘rare’. We ask what’s in their DNA so that we can identify with them, or we ask where we can find them, and how we can work with them to release our strategic visions and intent. We also ask “can we grow and develop them?”

Let’s ventilate this topic with fresh thinking. We are coming to learn that great creators aren’t necessarily ones with the most outlandish ideas, or the deepest expertise, but also those activating the broadest perspectives, acting at the right time, with the right people around them.

We have a picture of more radical risk-takers and innovators, called game changers, from 2015 research. And we understand more about the composition of the team that drives game changing outputs. Now we also know, thanks to Adam Grant’s work ‘Originals’, that not all originality requires extreme risk taking. “I want to persuade you”, he says, “that originals are actually far more ordinary than we realise.” Grant defines originals as people who take the road less traveled, championing novel ideas that go against the grain but ultimately make things better.

Why should this be significant? Because all of us can learn to be Originals.

There is a growing body of evidence to suggest many entrepreneurs are just ‘ordinary’, with the same fears and the same doubts as all of us. The best entrepreneurs, says Linda Rottenberg, are not risk maximisers. They take the risk out of risk taking.  They don’t like risk any more than the rest of us. They take calculated and measured risks, balancing their portfolios. Rottenberg is CEO of Endeavour, and has spent decades training many of the worlds great entrepreneurs. She is known as “la chica loca” (the crazy girl) for insisting that entrepreneurs existed not just in Silicon Valley but also in emerging markets around the world. Even when extreme risks are taken in one area, it seems they are balanced with caution in another.

Those who champion originality, rather than conformity, move us forward. And they are not so different from most us of us, says Grant. They appear bold and confident on the outside, but inside, they are also afraid of risk and avoid it. Originals start by questioning default positions, and then take calculated risks. All of us can learn to be Originals. As Sheryl Sandberg notes in her Forward to the book:

“… any one of us can champion ideas that improve the world around us.”

Crossing the Chasm: From Innovation Hub or Hero To Innovation as Usual – How do we get it right? was the focus session delivered at the recent 2017 Talent Talks Africa Conference.

By Gaylin Jee

We tend to grab onto the past and use it to design the future. It’s a profound failure of imagination. So say Stephen Gill and David Grebow. They add that the future is no longer about looking for continuity with the past and choosing shinier versions of existing technologies and trends.

This reminds me of Eddie Obeng’s work on the World After Midnight. We are still using yesterday’s models and hoping they will solve tomorrow’s challenges. That’s not impossible, but it will become increasingly unrewarding.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Sometimes there needs to be a disruptive idea that lights up the crystal ball and makes us look at the future in a new way.”

You can read the full article by Gill and Grebow on the Association for Talent Development website here, but in essence they speak to a fundamental shift in training and learning, from managing hands, to managing minds. The future of learning for them is about managing minds. EQ will be important. Companies will be enabling learning, but not necessarily directing it.

I agree. Employees are catching on to the benefit of learning how to learn. Push is slowly giving over to pull, where some of us realise that we can draw down what we need from the eco-system that sits around us. That eco-system could offer the tools and tech to find out what we want to know, to communicate, to work together, to make sense of what we can do and how we do it.  Smart organisations help to set up those eco-systems. Their employees can experiment a little with what they find around them, and they’re encouraged to do that. After all, big and small ideas and innovations fall out of this type of enabled serendipity.

And so the shift extends, from managing hands, to managing minds, to perhaps a connecting of minds (which happens beyond the boundaries of the traditional organisation). A little more control and direction is relinquished, and a little more agency adopted on the part of employees.

We are fortunate to live in the times we do, with all this technological advancement. We can access learning and connection everywhere. That is just as well, for the Fourth Industrial Revolution is fast approaching. And the survival of the fittest in this revolution will not be those most responsive to change, but rather those who are one step ahead of it.

This article was first published on Talent Talks Africa.

By Gaylin Jee

Even a giant can streamline, increase speed and encourage innovation. 

General Electric (GE) has done this through making lean startup part of the mindset and the culture at the organisation, using a programme called FastWorks.

Leader of GE Culture and co-founder of GE FastWorks, Janice Sempe:

“We had a culture of being addicted to being right, … we had a culture of perfection. We didn’t know how to partner with our customers and see their problems from their perspective.” “We had to train our leaders to lead in a different way. We had to get them to ask questions in place of provide answers.”

Often our focus is on activity, or getting things done. If we shift the focus from customer requirements confusion to customer validation, to building a minimum viable product and then pivoting, to learning as we go along, we get better product to market more quickly. In place of having thinly spread teams, GE builds dedicated teams. These teams are fast, and focused. Using FastWorks, GE has successfully introduced lean startup principles in a non-tech environment, and in a highly regulated industry.

Based on the lean startup methodology principles of Eric Ries, creator of the Lean Startup methodology, FastWorks is essentially a set of tools and practices designed to build better products for customers, more quickly. There are 100s of FastWorks programmes across GE. FastWorks decreases the cycle time for product development. GE uses it to get closer to customers, to encourage innovation, increase speed to market, improve chances of success, and, generally, to make it easier to get things done.

Sempe shares the challenges and tangible successes that GE has driven through creating a culture of experimentation in the podcast interview How An Enterprise Makes Lean Startup Part of The Mindset And Culture. These kinds of successes she notes are about a lot more than training. You have to think more broadly about your organisations ability, in terms of its behaviours and cultures, to support the application of a lean startup approach. This is more than giving permission to fail, it is asking the questions: What new skills are needed and can be developed? Will new behaviours required be rewarded? How will our performance management system support this? What are the new expectations we have of employees?

At GE, 5 new belief statements were introduced. They wanted to think about failure in a different way, and to reframe barriers, giving permission for people to accept and adopt new ways of thinking and acting. Not meeting an outcome is a great way of getting to a better solution. You learn as you go along. The bold GE statements are:

  1. Customers determine our success
  2. Stay lean to go fast
  3. Learn and adapt to win
  4. Empower and inspire each other
  5. Deliver results in an uncertain world.

The GE performance management system has also been reworked, from a linear process of setting and measuring goals at the start and end of each year, to an on-going process that encourages asking the right questions. It allows for adaption. Employees are expected to experiment and pivot based on what they are learning from their customers.

It would be naïve to think that an organisational change like this is easy. Sempe says they are learning as they go, and she admits that it is hard. There has been considerable commitment to the programme. In the first year of implementation, Ries trained around 1000 GE executives on Lean Startup. There are also numerous coaches in the organization. But the results are tangible. Sempe offers two proof points in her interview:

  1. A new product (an engine) getting to market 2 years ahead of competitors with significant cost savings to the company, positioned very well with customers as a result, by using FastWorks principles;
  2. An efficient low cost energy solution for their power and water business, development costs were reduced by 60% by using the principles of FastWorks.

Define your company's mindset orentation

The Singularity Hub describe FastWorks as part of the company’s Mindset Orientation, or MO, one of 8 principles for leaders to make the most of the exponential age. It is worth reading the article to find out what the other 7 are.

What is your organization’s mindset orientation? What commitment is there to learning and adapting faster than the change that’s happening around you?

 

By Gaylin Jee

exponential-organisationsfuture-business-innovationIf your resources are scarce and come at a premium, you can aim to control as many stages of production as possible. You can do this through vertical integration. Vertical integration is when businesses at different stages of production merge to control more than one stage of the supply chain. Think about iron miners and steel factories, a farm and a grocery store, and a large supermarket with it’s own brands. In the last example, ownership of manufacturing, distribution and retail provide opportunities to offer products at competitive prices. There are distinct benefits associated with being able to control access to inputs, and to control the cost, quality and delivery times of those inputs.

But times are changing. According to Techcrunch, the pace of technological advancement is rendering vertically integrated organisations practically obsolete.

Whereas historically firms have vertically integrated in order to control access to scarce physical resources, modern firms are internally and externally disaggregated, participating in a variety of alliances and joint ventures and outsourcing even those activities normally regarded as core. – McKinsey and Co.

Small teams can realize the feats of what was previously the preserve of larger giants, more quickly, and effectively. They bring agility and leaness. And a fundamental shift is what Techcrunch describe as an orientation towards plenty, in pace of dearth. The governing principle of scarcity is being challenged by an abundance mindset. At 33 Emeralds we’ve been talking about an abundance mindset for some time on a personal level, and working with individuals to re-orientate from being ‘hassled by change and disruption’, and, ‘not very good with tech’ to understanding that with all this change comes opportunity like we’ve never seen or experienced it before. Getting our heads around a glass over-flowing (rather than a half empty), is a necessary choice you make for your own future.

From an organization perspective, exponential organisations are set up to leverage abundance. Their low organizational demands are inversely proportional to huge business potential. They design for rapid and effortless growth. AirBnB, for example, leverages an abundance of real estate. Watch this 7-minute clip on Exponential Organisations by Salim Ismail if you’re curious about the exponential organization.

Exponential organisations, says Ismail, are designed for the digital business economy. And they’re the ones most likely to survive longer term.