Future Companies As Result Of Automation And AI

Future Companies As Result Of Automation And AI
Future Companies As Result Of Automation And AI

Covid-19 has forced business leaders to accept that automation will arrive earlier than expected. It is therefore timely, albeit in less-than-positive circumstances, to look at which type of companies will, and will not, thrive in the future.

Many articles about Artificial Intelligence (AI) have sensationalized the effect of automation as the grim reaper of jobs. However, it will not be jobs that will be automated, but rather tasks within those jobs – in fact any tasks that can be put into a process. The success of companies in the future will depend upon their willingness to find those tasks that can be automated. Therefore, companies will soon be defined by their level of automation combined with self-management, and will fall into one of four categories:

A dying breed will be those companies that are resisting change and still prefer a command and control hierarchy. Particularly prevalent within larger organizations that have not split into smaller workgroups of less than 200 people, work within these ‘resistant’ types of organizations will be bureaucratic and levels of employee satisfaction will be low. Without change, these organizations will eventually fail, as good employees will find a more engaging environment where individual growth is encouraged and where employees take pride in their company’s product.

Not all tasks will be automated in the future. Therefore, the second category of companies are those where much of the work done by employees may be singular or repetitive but difficult to automate. These companies can be split into two; those companies that require very specialized skills creating one-off products (encompassing creative tasks), and those companies undertaking low-value tasks where the cost of automation is higher than the cost of human labor. This is generally due to the complexity of the task and the related cost of robotics required to automate a process. An example which has been resolved technically, but is still robotically expensive is the picking of fruit and vegetables. This back-breaking work is still left to low cost, mostly immigrant workers today, although the lack of immigrant workers due to the Covid-19 crisis may force farmers to accelerate their use of robotics.

The third type, and the majority, of companies will be those where employees are put first and profit follows. A number of these companies exist today including my own company Pod Group. Pod Group’s ethos is based on the attributes Wisdom, Emotional Intelligence, Initiative, Responsibility and [self] Development (W.E.I.R.D), so that each employee is motivated to achieve their own goals and by extension motivated to work towards the company’s goals. Employees will understand the need to constantly try and improve existing products and business processes by automating what they can, so that they can avoid dull, routine tasks and find more satisfaction in their work. These companies will encourage employees to find tasks to automate so that they can use the time saved to concentrate on higher-value thinking tasks. Ultimately, these companies will succeed as employees will feel empowered to constantly improve themselves and the companies they work for.

Over the last thirty years technological change has accelerated. Much of this change is due to improved processing capacity which has indirectly led to new business models. For example, the creation of ubiquitous ride-sharing services was possible due to GPS chips becoming cheap enough to add into every mobile phone, allowing every mobile phone owner to provide their location. Even the fundamentals of AI haven’t changed since its early years. However, by 2030, two new technologies that are pushing the boundaries of science in ways we have not explored before will start to have an impact on the world – quantum computing and synthetic biology. The fourth group of companies will be those that are pushing the boundaries of science. More than any other group, these companies will need to allow employee freedom in order to encourage initiative and innovative thinking. It is striking that WL Gore, which is one of the world’s largest material science companies is also one of the most successful self-managed companies.

Due to AI and automation, many aspects of our lives in the future will be less challenging and require less mental energy. It is therefore even more important that CEOs and business leaders create challenging work environments that encourage initiative and responsibility, rather than one of mental idleness.

To do this CEOs need to create an environment that encourages self-management. Ironically, enforced remote working has provided a pilot study for mass self-management. A deeply demotivating action by CEOs and managers would be to ignore those employees who have embraced working at home and want to work differently than before. Instead, CEOs should emulate some of the most successful self-managed billion-dollar revenue companies such as WL Gore, Semco, Buffer or Wholefoods and build on this new normal to create successful companies that will still be here in the future.

originally posted on forbes.com by Charles Towers-Clark