Adapting to the unstoppable march of AI

20 November 2023

How will leaders adapt to workplace cultures ruled by AI? Mindbeat’s Head of Client and Product Development, Jessica Bellwood offers five adaptation strategies for leaders to thrive in an AI-empowered world. 

During an interview at the closing session of the UK’s AI Safety Summit this month, Elon Musk described a world in which AI would be able to do everything and could cover every job.

Many professions have taken umbrage at Musk’s suggestion that all workers can one day be replaced by robots. However, the role that we as humans play, the way that we connect with technology, and the value that we bring will change so we need to be on the front foot.

As humankind continues to evolve AI’s exponentially increasing power, workplace productivity will naturally accelerate. Leaders therefore need to focus on how to adapt to this transformational change while developing their team’s softer, more human skills in readiness for a brave new fully-automated world. 

Here are Mindbeat’s five leadership adaptation strategies for an AI-empowered world

1. Think future first

What can be automated will be automated in an AI-empowered workplace. So leaders need to embrace new skills, expertise and judgement in areas such as data tracking, simulation, virtual modelling, programmatic and other fields where AI will reign supreme.

Technology will close the data-insight gap and improve decision-making capabilities, especially in time-critical, high-pressure situations. However, the resulting deluge of data will only turn up the volume and intensify the pressure to make the right choices. This will require you to retain your focus and surround yourself with trusted ‘human’ experts.

2. Assess current workplace skills and the shift needed

Hard skills can make you and your teams good at one job, but soft skills can help you all excel at many jobs.

Professional development in an AI-dominated world will require an enhanced ability to capitalise on the serendipity of human interaction that machines cannot emulate. So recruit people with strong social skills, encourage in-person interactions with clients and colleagues, and find ways to build your brand in the real ‘in-person’ world.

3. Don’t let your teams become predictable

Remember that Generative AI (ChatGBT and other AI-powered language models) responds with crowd-sourced wisdom and predictive answers. Its workplace adoption is, therefore, more likely to homogenize and standardise, rather than individualise your team’s output.

Written and visual content (marketing, advertising, digital etc) still needs to stand out and cut through in a noisy environment where everyone is in danger of sounding the same.

So, encourage creative individualism and nurture human values, tone of voice and original thought. When everyone else is turning to AI-driven solutions, creative, human uniqueness is what will set you apart from the competition. 

4. Equip your people for the future

Standard Chartered’s Chief Human Resources Officer, Tanuj Kapilashrami told the One Young World summit in October that it had analysed those ‘sunset’ jobs that will disappear over the next three to five years and those ‘sunrise’ jobs, which are likely to replace them.

The findings spelt alarming news for female professional development since more women currently work in ‘sunset’ roles and fewer women work in STEM, data science and technology.

AI therefore has the potential to undo all the hard work done to ensure positive gender balance across the workplace. To avoid this, focus on reskilling and forging new professional development pathways. Encourage a diverse workforce to develop new workplace skills as well as adapt those skills they may already possess from side hustles and outside interests.

As Kapilashrami says: “In an AI-powered world, skills will become the currency of work. As leaders and organisations, we stopped being the custodians of jobs a long time ago. We’re now the custodians of skills.”

5. Build a culture open to experimentation and personal growth

Leaders who regularly stray outside their comfort zones and refuse to shy away from bold and disruptive thinking are better prepared for adaptation or pivoting to new business models.

Encourage your teams to view challenges from new perspectives, be more agile and experiment with AI tools to assess potential and competitive advantages. This may require some unlearning as new ways of working come to the fore, so ensure staff are open to progressive ideas and not tied to ‘how we’ve always done things’.

Look for alternative ways to develop your personal growth as well. Our digital coaches encourage leaders to maintain outside interests, speak at conferences, mentor emerging talent and engage in other activities that will elevate their humanity in an increasingly automated world. 

Be prepared

Elon Musk’s futuristic view of where the workplace is heading was certainly short-sighted but it did serve as a timely reminder to leaders that as the influence of AI increases, human values and the importance of diverse skills are vital tools for professional growth.