This article is about how artificial intelligence will affect company cultures. What happens when the hero in the organisation is no longer a senior person but a computer? What happens when your boss tells you that he trust the computer more than he trusts you? What happens when you get fired because your job can be better done by a computer?

Uncertainty, fear and opportunities surround artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is not new. We just talk more about it and it is moving into areas where it directly affects more people’s lives. The driverless car is an example. They have the potential to be able to eliminate the majority of all accidents on the road. So now you can drink and drive without the risk of hurting anybody. We like that idea because it obviously helps us. We have known this kind of artificial intelligence from the aviation industry for decades, where planes predominantly rely on the judgement of the computers when flying. The development of artificial intelligence in planes has improved safely tremendously.

If today we had the same safety level as in 1970 a plane would crash every 15 minutes. This year till date only 363 people have been killed in 87 plane crashes. In 1970 2226 people were killed in 298 accidents. As you can see in the graph below the number of passengers has grown from 310 million in 1970 to nearly 4 billion in 2016.


So artificial intelligence is good. At least as long as it doesn’t take our jobs and offend our professional or emotional pride.

The fact is that many entry-level jobs are already being replaced by artificial intelligence. Law school graduates have troubles finding jobs at law firms because the work they used to do is done much better by computers. Hospitals are experimenting with having computer diagnosing patients instead of doctors and machines can already perform certain kinds of surgeries much better than we humans can.

Artificial intelligence is all good – or is it?

As it is easy to find the areas where artificial intelligence helps us making things easier, safer or quicker is slightly more difficult to see the negative side effects. An often – if we see them, we tend to downplay or even neglect them completely.

Deployment of artificial intelligence is like pressing toothpaste out of the tube. Once it is out you can’t get it back in. So I believe we have to carefully assess how far we are willing to go with the use of artificial intelligence. Just because we can go an extra step doesn’t mean we should necessarily do it.

I do certainly not neglect the positive effects of artificial intelligence when developed and used correctly, but below I will allow myself to be the devils advocate in assessing what artificial intelligence can do to a company culture if it gets out of hand.

Company culture and artificial intelligence

One of the general definitions of culture is “the way we do things around here”. A company culture is like any other culture. It is a collection of behaviours, values, norms and basic assumptions tied together with mutual trust and experience and a common view of the outside world, its opportunities and threats.

This very complex non-verbal inter-human interaction is crucial for us human beings. We are NOT rational creatures. We are emotional. We fall in love, we hurt other people in anger, we get jealous, we hate, we admire role models and heroes. We have a need for affiliation, we seek recognition and we define ourselves by how we are in relation to other people. These are basic human characteristics, which are not going to go away.

When we in Gugin facilitate a company cultural change we look into all these aspects plus a lot more. We look at what people dream of and what they fear.Â

More people have a fear of becoming redundant, a fear of being replaced by a computer. That fear leads to mistrust in the people around you, the management and the company itself.

If you don’t feel safe you change behaviour. and when you change behaviour you change the culture. And this is exactly what has been happening with some of our clients over the past couple of years.

The fear among the employees and middle managers is implicit but nevertheless very present because we can measure the change in behaviour. They are afraid of sharing knowledge. They are afraid of asking for help and this way reveal that they don’t know everything. That change in behaviour leads to decrease in quality, lower customer satisfaction, higher employee turnover and eventually lower profitability.

The artificial intelligence dilemma

The use of artificial intelligence creates a dilemma that all companies should be aware of and relate to.

If you don’t take advantage of the new technologies you will lose competitive advantage because some of your competitors will use the new technologies. They way they can produce and sell the same products or services cheaper in a better quality and delivered faster. So pretending the good old days won’t change is not a good strategy if you want to remain in business.

On the other side of the dilemma, you might lose the motivation of your most important asset – your employees ( and perhaps customers) if you deploy artificial intelligence and other automation technologies as fast and intensive as possible.

Last month we conducted a survey for an airport lounge, that has just implemented automatic boarding card scanners for its guests instead of being greeted by a human being from that particular airline. The airline implemented the automatic scanning of boarding cards to save money on having people sitting at the welcome desk.

We interviewed 600 passengers over 2 days. 78% of passengers would rather talk to a human being, and even wait a few minutes rather than scanning their boarding card themselves in order to get access to the lounge. It is because human interaction is fundamental to our well-being as human beings. As human interaction is becoming seldom in many places we value it even more. This is probably why 65% of the passengers we interviewed stated that the automated registration of them when entering the lounge will have a negative impact on their overall rating of the airline.
Previously we have seen similar figures when companies are trying to replace inbound call centres with automated solutions.

Deployment of artificial intelligence solutions is probably going to follow the same patterns.

Is Artificial Intelligence a threat or an opportunity for your corporate culture?

Book a thought-provoking Speech on Artificial Intelligence and Company Culture

What happens when the hero in the organisation is no longer a senior person but a computer? What happens when your boss tells you that he trust the computer more than he trusts you? What happens when you get fired because your job can be better done by a computer?

What can you do to use artificial intelligence wisely in your company?

We humans don’t like change – at least no when it concerns ourselves and it is not voluntarily

Based on our experience we suggest you do the following to prepare your organisation for the use of artificial intelligence:

•Make sure you have a company culture where everybody trust, feel, believe and experience that they are the most important asset to the company. When that is in place people are much more willing to change also in the transition towards wider use of artificial intelligence

•Try to make artificial intelligence initiatives be a bottom-up process. Not only do you get acceptance from the organisation you also get a lot of great ideas to how the culture can be preserved and developed while deploying new technologies. One of the law firms we have been working with did that and found out that the new graduates they hired could charge more money faster by using artificial intelligence. So they actually hire more new graduates than 5 years ago. They would never have reached that point if it was a process driven from the bottom up.

•Make a space where people can express their fears and concerns about the deployment of artificial intelligence. It has to be anonymous. People express concerns because the care, so take it seriously and address these concerns properly

•Make sure the transition process is very transparent and do make sure you maintain the highest level of integrity at all times. This is about trust. Integrity is the foundation for trust.

If you are interested in discussing this further please do get in touch here


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