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7 Challenges Artificial Intelligence Brings to your Business and Career

robot-507811_1920I was reading the blog of a well-known and established management consultant who recommended that, in order to perform better we have to learn faster. This was in relations to BI (business intelligence) and AI (artificial intelligence) and what professionals need to do to survive the advent of AI into the business world, into decision making and into professional careers. It was suggested that the way to beat AI is to learn faster.

I had no choice but to write this business leader a personal email outlining that his recommendation could be equated to the song, John Henry. John Henry was a Steel Gang Lead who had a hammer in his hand. He competed against the Steam Shovel at the turn of the century to beat technology down, saying he would die with a hammer in his hand. The Steam Shovel won and John Henry was laid to rest. To this day, trains pass by to haunt the man who died with a hammer in his hand. My point is, telling people to learn faster is like saying “here’s a hammer – now go beat the AI computer in your analysis and decision making.” Eventually AI will win, you will die and the economy will change. You should be asking, “what is the impact?”, “ why is it important?” and “how should I proceed so I can prepare for another shift in my professional landscape?”

Pick Your Battles:  I don’t want to simplify this too much. I learned from raising teenagers, that I needed to pick my battles. Again, you think that lesson would be learned in the professional world. Teenagers can be somewhat moody. So, you need to know when to engage and when to pull back, or else everything blows up in your face. When you look at AI and BI you need to know when to pick your battles and develop an understanding of what you should or need to lean into and what you need to let go. Some of your day-to-day work will disappear and the business world will be moodier for a while, so it is better to create a flexible plan with alternative routes now.

Interesting Article:  8 Things You Must Do Better To Make Better Decisions

When Stephen Hawking Speaks:  When I hear Stephen Hawking’s name, I stop and listen. He has made some dangerous predictions about AI in 2015. It is along the lines of AI having the drive to reproduce and survive like biological organisms. If you are a sci-fi fan you can pick the language to use. The main, simplified point: AI with goals could take human resources away. The counter to the point is, AI, with specific complex communities, will be like social bees. For example, an AI hive could be created in a complex supply chain manufacturing environment to manage the environment and needs of the business. For the human piece, you need to ensure you advance your skills and capabilities in other areas to minimize your displacement. In other words, job loss.

Creep into Decision-Making:   AI has already made its way into decision-making and is impacting work and computing. I suspect a lot of people don’t even realize it. We need to recognize now that AI and BI will grow exponentially. It’s sped up and improved to add value to business via business intelligence. It will continue to be part of the value chain for basic decisions and will advance further. When I think of basic decisions, in today’s terms, I think of smart investment systems that automatically define your investment portfolio and make adjustments based on a set of criteria that you specified, or the airline ticket systems that adjust pricing based on pre-set criteria. These decisions, in the not so distant past, had human intervention. Now they are serviced by an automated system.

Friend or Enemy:  We can go back to the turn of the 20th century industry song, John Henry to say that technology has replaced many routine jobs. Initially, machines needed a human hand. Now, we can say that automation has replaced human workers in more decision-making roles and routines. I was reading and thinking about “black box” decision-making. It is unknown how an AI system arrives at a decision, conclusion or recommendation. In a human business system you would test the validity of the problem statement, the assumptions and the final solution. Using a standard process, you define, solve, implement and measure all events with professional intervention. With the human component removed there might be less prejudice, but there is the other side where humanization of decisions, considers not just facts but the human element. Within business you will need to the balance profit drive and public good. How that plays out I do not know.

Power Rangers Rescuers:  The reality is this whole article is about the power; the power of computers and the power of decision makers. If decision-making is being replaced by machines, then so are the decision makers. In business, you use a process to arrive at recommended decisions that are presented to decision makers, usually a sponsor. Our future with, AI in it, is one where the professional and the manager have to improve their abilities to produce value. People who can think strategically and creatively will be the power rangers of tomorrow. Not the tactical person since tactics could be sourced by machines.

For the past decade, in my business analysis and strategic planning training programs and writing, I have been telling professionals and business leaders to work on their strategic and creative thinking abilities. If things continue on the present course, success in the middle is not an option. This means that middle management and middle careers will further be eroded, organizations will slim and the savvy, strategic, creative professional will rise to the top. Your professional relationship with the organization will change as you embrace multiple organizationally initiatives across a varied business landscape. You will be the Power Ranger Rescuer that is able to integrate AI and BI into your work.

Related Article: 3 Levels of Questions to Ask in Your Business

Maybe you will become a rewarded hero of an age of creative business problem solutions. This is something I don’t think organizations do well, that is reward the intellectual abilities possessed within the business analysts mind. Traditional business models don’t work. But that will be another article just about rewards. I sometimes wonder who’s worth more; the project manager who brings a project to completion, or the business analysts who finds a business problem solution that saves an organization millions. You decide. Who’s the hero?

Accelerated Education:  This is where I started. I mean, learning faster is something we human’s won’t be able to do as AI and BI are integrated into the fabric of our existence. But that does not mean we stop learning. It will just be a different kind of learning. Recently, I was in a meeting regarding education. The question posed was, “why do some mature professionals have their master’s degree and other don’t, and why does the work history of these “others” without a master’s degree equate to a master’s degree in business, easily. It was suggested that the learning had to be done by doing and attending advance boot camp programming that gave the person the skills, information, knowledge and exposure they needed for applicable thinking and tools now. I agree partly with the response because in the corporate world, acceleration means learning applicable skills now. This might appear to counter what I stated earlier about how learning faster to beat AI is like John Henry hammering at the mountain. You aren’t going to win. With boot camps you are not trying to beat AI and BI systems. You are focusing on a specific skillset that embraces creative-thinking and is applicable now. That is it. Hopefully, we will get past hard skill learning and embrace experiential soft skill learning on another level.

The greatest danger of Artificial Intelligence, people conclude too early, they understand it. Eliezer Yudkowsky Click To Tweet

Final Thoughts: With this blog I was not trying to debunk AI, BI or education in any way. But I do believe the advances in AI and BI will radically change the way professionals (who use business analysis best practices) survive the next transition wave of business and technology integration with smarter machines. I do think that the professional who considered their learning in relation to AI and BI design interactions; who can go past the operational and tactical and groom their creative abilities along with their strategic insights, can prepare themselves for a heck of a career journey.

When I was in university, years ago, I wrote a philosophy paper answering the question “can computers think?” I based my paper on a Cola Machine that said “thank you” after you paid for a drink. At the time, I argued that no machines can think. Using the example, a human had to program and maintain systems that simply acknowledged receiving payment for services rendered.  A human can do this, but in this case there were no other interactions or pleasantries. I received an A+ for this paper. That was 30 years ago.

I did mention in my paper, that as the decades pass we may actually have thinking and deciding systems that go past the limitations of wires and circuitry. I guess my point now, is that I believe it is time that we, within the professional business community, embrace ourselves for a change in decision-making and careers now so we can contribute to tomorrow. Be strategic, be creative and build relationships. Good luck.

Remember, do your best, invest in the success of others, and make your journey count. Richard.

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