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Artificial Intelligence and the modern environment

By Dr Mat Donald, author of Leading and Managing Change in the Age of Disruption and Artificial Intelligence


Image: Mat Donald.Disruption is now altering the way organisations operate, where this new age is characterised as being fast paced, uncertain and full of risk. Disruption is different to previous organisational change as it is difficult to predict.

The pace of disruptive change has been aided by globalisation, market inter-connectivity, the internet and social media. On an almost daily basis new presidential announcements are made on social media regarding trade wars, tariffs and many other changes, where the information flows unfiltered, often without independent analysis. As another element of disruption, technology is accelerating through new logarithms, new social media interconnectivity as well as new models of smart phones among many others. The upcoming release of 5G and its faster communication speeds may enable location accuracy so enable new forms of artificial intelligence (AI) and even robots to emerge. Technological change is not merely about speed, the unpredictability and risk associated will likely impact the way organisations operate, including their leadership and management.

Despite many existing forms of disruption, it is technological change that may be one of the most enduring elements. The pace of change may have exceeded the human capability to control it, where viruses, data management and protection may already be too complex for the average manager or business owner. New technology device data already supports various marketers, where individual social media preferences can be targeted and has even influenced elections in the USA. Technological disruption is moving fast in uncertain ways, so whilst it may provide opportunities there are also new risks for leaders and managers to consider. Failure to appreciate the differences of technological disruption may result in organisations losing value, losing staff trust or simply risk being left behind.

It was hypothesised in recent research that organisational resistance to change may have multiple influencing factors as shown in the conceptual drawing below. It was thought that as so many organisational change factors had been discovered in the past 70 years, it was possible that they may co-exist and interrelate.

Image: Multidimensional Resistance Concept (Donald, 2017).

Multidimensional Resistance Concept (Donald, 2017)

The research was conducted in a mixed method format that began with 25 interviews of senior managers from a variety of backgrounds, skills and industries. At the conclusion of the interview phase of the research a number of tests were performed, where it appeared that many of the interview factors were interrelated in both positive and negative directions, as shown in the figure below:

Image: Positive and Negative Interview References (Donald, 2017, 2019).

Positive and Negative Interview References (Donald, 2017, 2019)

At the conclusion of the survey phase, a number of factors were identified that appeared may interrelate, where those factors were included in a survey. The survey was aimed at seeking any statistical significance of any interrelationships between the factors identified in the interview phase of the research. The survey questions were shown to be reliable under the various statistical tests, where various leadership and management elements were shown to be the most interrelated.

As technological disruption is likely to continue for years to come, organisations may need to change almost constantly. The change may not break or delay and is likely to present with uncertainty and risk, including that of redundancy. Using the research findings discussed above, it is clear that more than one approach to change is likely to be required in this new age of disruption.

Leaders once may have been confident and competent at setting strategy, followed by a series of communications on reasons for change to staff, customers and investors. As technology and AI may emerge quickly and often, there may be flow on job losses and changes for staff on a regular basis. In the ensuing change staff may become stressed about their employment and may lose trust in their leadership. It is particularly important for leaders to maintain trust with their staff and stakeholders, as without trust they may be unwilling to listen, understand or accept change. In constant and unpredictable change staff may become unsettled as leaders may no longer appear to be in control of the organisation. Customers may similarly be disillusioned if it is apparent that leadership direction is constantly changing due to emerging new forms of technology. The past predictions of large-scale job losses with a single technology jump are no longer considered likely, rather technology is likely to emerge in waves of change, each arriving only as each new capability and function is mastered.

Leaders may be best advised to develop new relations with staff and stakeholders in this new age, where new and improved leadership skill may also be required. Leaders that make decisions in isolation and then seek to explain changes to staff later may find the whole process is too slow for the new age. For staff to engage and follow the leader they need to know that their ideas and suggestions are valuable and are listened to by their leadership, performing the engagement after fast technological decisions are made may be ineffective. To maintain trust in their leadership, staff need to understand decisions, make suggestions, rate options and have a chance to provide alternatives. Staff and customers may perceive that leaders do not care about the consequences of decisions if there is not adequate engagement before decisions are made. Whilst leaders may not be able to predict new technology functionality, they can explain the uncertainty and risks associated with technology and its inter-connectivity that enhances change speed.

Closer staff and stakeholder relations will likely be required in an attempt to reduce time and effort in making swift change. Leaders wishing to achieve enhanced influence with closer relations may discover that they need new and enhanced skills in negotiation, communication, explanation and engagement in order maintain trust.


References

  • Donald, M. (2017). Resistance to change forms and effects in Greater Western Sydney: a multidimensional approach. (Doctor of Philosphy- Business), Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia.

  • Donald, M. (2019). Leading and Managing Change in the Age of Disruption and Artificial Intelligence, United Kingdom: Emerald.