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Business AI: Assistant or Replacement?

illustration of artificial intelligence

We’re definitely at the dawn of a new era; technology has never been so advanced or convenient.

I mean, we’ve got cars that drive themselves, and planes that submerge underwater. But perhaps the most significant achievement the human mind has achieved to date is to recreate a non organic version of itself – Artificial Intelligence.

Thanks to AI, today’s breed of tech and machines can actually comprehend, act, learn, think, and alter behavior according to new data in real time. AI is surely poised to transform numerous processes and overall productivity across the economy as a whole.

But even in this epoch of unbelievable, sci-fi like advancements, you’d be surprised how many misconceptions still run unchecked.

One popular myth purported by scholars, conspiracy theorists, and movie producers alike is the ‘rise of the machines’ where computers and robots replace human workers and eventually take over the world with one main objective – to eliminate the ever wasteful, illogical and inferior human species.

While based on some truth (humans are wasteful and illogical, no argument there), the reality couldn’t be further away from what you’ve seen on the silver screen.

The True Value of Artificial Intelligence

Truth is, plenty of business risk being passed by the promise of AI unless they rethink how their people can partner with intelligent machines.

According to Jim Wilson (MD at Information Technology and Business Research at Accenture), the most lasting and impactful performance boosts in companies happen when man and AI powered machine work together to create a concept known as collaborative intelligence.

While working on his book (Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the AI Age), Wilson carried out research on over 100 companies worldwide. He and his colleague Paul discovered that whenever AI was deployed with the main aim of displacing humans, the best outcome was short term gains in productivity at the most.

Eventually, the progress stalls because the AI is lacking one essential aspect – a human brain and a teacher to go along with it.

By contrast, Wilson and Paul also noted that companies that tailored their processes around human AI collaboration outperformed others by a factor of 3 – and even as high as 6 at times in areas such as scalability, flexibility, speed, and decision making. From their data, it’s clear that unlocking the true power of AI rests highly on effective collaboration between man and machine.

The real question now becomes, how should companies redesign their processes to support this symbiosis?

And what actions could they take to prepare their workforce for AI with the least possible work disruption?

Be sure to read thisWhat is AI Sales Assistant Software?

How companies should prepare their workforce for AI with least disruption

Collaborative intelligence is crucial for AI success

The first step that companies need to take is to make their team understand exactly how human AI collaboration could help each enhance the other’s capabilities.

According to Wilson, most business processes will need to be redesigned around the key strengths of both AI powered machines and humans.

In our case here, sales teams could benefit significantly from having certain types of AI helping them out and here’s why. If management could take the human’s comprehension of qualities like creativity, teamwork, leadership and judgment – put that alongside machines’ cold calculative nature, adept scalability, high speeds and other quantitative capabilities, you can imagine how much your team could achieve no matter where they are.

In fact, the more widespread your team is, the more data you get for your AI to work with.

By now, I’m sure you get the gist of what collaborative intelligence (CI) is, and just how essential it is for any AI system to work directly with humans. And while humans are essential for training machines, it’s also up to them to sustain responsible use of machines (i.e. by preventing a robot uprising.).

AI empowered workforce will minimize displacement

In addition to delivering great results, getting your team and AI machines to work together can also help reduce workforce disruption.

AI tech is advancing at an increasingly rapid rate. So when you think about it, its workers who are not using the AI that are at risk of displacement by those who use it.

As such, empowering more people to use AI is crucial and could create an entirely new job market. So in real sense, AI won’t replace humans or displace entire sales teams; that would be counterproductive at the moment.

It’s other people that’ll do what has been going on since the invention of capitalism – firing one employee to hire another who’s more skilled, educated, qualified, talented… basically all the qualities that make someone more competitive in the job market.

Upskilling your workforce for AI

This might be obvious on the surface, but you’d be surprised how many companies are not doing it.

In the aforementioned book, Wilson states that most activities in the human-machine interface will require employees to perform several new tasks. This could include things like training a chat bot and deploying it to provide better customer service.

Unfortunately, Accenture’s research found that only a small percentage of companies recognize this skill gap and have actually begun developing relevant AI training strategies. Wilson further points out that many of these companies are held back by a lack of time, budgetary constraints, and absence of training technology.

Jim Wilson proposes this 4 step approach to upskilling workers
  • Reimagine what is possible: Companies need to encourage an open mindset among their teams to ascertain a sense of trust as opposed to misguided fears of mass retrenchments.
  • Enable data literacy: Like most computerized systems, data is the petrol that fuels AI machines. As such, any decent upskilling program needs to have basic data literacy 101. Employees will need to understand the company’s data policy as well as data ethics skills to collaborate with AI systems.
  • Democratize AI: Upskilling programs need to democratize AI learning to make sure all stakeholders understand how to properly interact with the systems.
  • Commit to responsible AI: Upskilling isn’t merely technical affair – there’s also a social and ethical dimension to it. Building AI systems in a responsible way means having executives that can commit to using AI accountably, without any biases.

Conclusion on Business Artificial Intelligence

In summary, upskiling for business AI needs to be taken very seriously – to the tune of a key business responsibility.

Wilson’s book clearly explains why people scared of AI fear the wrong threat. Robots will never replace a good ol’ sales rep; it’s actually a skilled, hungry and AI empowered sales rep that you need to worry about. Instead of running scared and blind, businesses can help build a new economy with more opportunities by creating a culture of human – AI collaboration.

In Wilson’s own words, “If we aim to increase the effectiveness of any human-machine collaboration, increasing the educative factor is an essential component. All success in AI is intricately tied to an investment in your workforce.”

The secret to remaining competitive in this new age is to fully embrace AI and train your team to create a profit generating, collaborative intelligent machine.

You can start your AI partnership journey today with programs like Veloxy that use AI systems to feed your sales teams with the right information at the right time for their next task depending on several factors such as their context and location.

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Sauvik Sarkar

Sauvik Sarkar

Sales AI is transforming selling activities for companies of all sizes, and one of the leaders in this movement is Sauvik Sarkar. While artificial intelligence can be intimidating to most, Sauvik helps improve adoption with one-on-one training, insightful blog articles, and more.

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