Can AI help workers break free of their cognitive shackles?


One of the biggest challenges facing enterprises as artificial intelligence (AI) and other intelligent technologies invade the workplace is how to help employees adapt.

For many workers, especially older ones, learning how to work with intelligent technologies — not just as tools but as collaborators — may be difficult. Then there are the employees who are used to just “doing their jobs,” rarely thinking beyond their own limited roles and responsibilities to consider the strategic goals of their organizations or possible ways to innovate.

A new survey of 120 global business leaders shows that enterprise decision-makers are exceedingly optimistic about AI’s impact on their workforces. Virtually all respondents (99%) to the survey by telco products and services provider Tata Communications view AI as a “conduit for teams to be more productive and efficient.”

Nearly as many respondents (93%) said they believe AI will enhance decision-making, while 90% believe AI will “diversify human thinking.”

Enterprise leaders value cognitive diversity for good reason. “The more intellectual diversity in the room, the more tension and friction, which leads us to find the underlying, universal truth among our differences,” says Garance Choko, founder and CEO of Coda Societies. “That’s the Holy Grail.”

So how can AI enhance cognitive diversity within a work team? The survey report offers four specific scenarios:

  • Today, team-building is an outbound process, where needs are identified and recruiters are tasked with finding the right person via a talent management tool (e.g., Taleo). In the future, an internal AI system could source candidates and suggest those individuals who are currently available based on intellectual diversity criteria set by the team/organization.
  • An AI-enhanced project management tool (e.g., Asana) could suggest the right people to CC on every communication and who should be called to and dismissed from a task, resulting in much more informed team distribution and opportunity for cognitive diversity.
  • Designers and product managers often make unilateral judgments about critical product decisions (e.g., building an app that involves multiple inputs, design elements and data sets). To encourage communication between departments, an AI system could recruit expert advice from elsewhere in an organization (an analyst or someone with previous experience), breaking down silos and bringing together a more diverse and informed set of viewpoints.
  • When working on a deliverable that requires multiple collaborators, a document is shared by manually entering names into a tool of choice (e.g., Google Docs). With the addition of AI, collaborators could be suggested based on the type of account, current team or people working on similar projects within the organization. The AI system could ask a qualified colleague if they’re available to help and then add them to the document.

Imagine these (and other) uses of AI being leveraged every day to proactively find the right human resources for a project, keep the right people in the loop, and solicit multiple (and relevant) viewpoints. Enterprises would be more efficient and employees would be more engaged and productive. That’s a win-win.

“Businesses must establish a culture of digital transformation to prepare employees for AI in the workplace,” the study report concludes. “This is the concept of multiplicity. Through embracing multiplicity, the combination of humans and AI can be a force for good.”

Sounds great! Let’s just hope enough enterprise leaders recognize how AI can work with employees, and not merely replace them.

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