Organisational change and the AI hype.

People are confused. Organisations are confused. The hype surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) knows no bounds. Pinning a definition on it is in itself no mean feat. For some, it’s a platform to sell new technologies, such as blockchain and cryptocurrency. For others, its focus is on the slightly less prosaic concept of machine-learning. For the populist media, it’s an opportunity to paint a picture of a future when the robots seize control.

Given the hype, is it any wonder that organisations are experiencing their very own version of Fear of Missing Out and are frantically trying to make sense of what AI will mean in precise and rational business terms? The biggest challenge now is convincing management that AI can’t solve everything. Yet, a recently published and excellent report by venture capitalists MMC Ventures found that two-fifths of Europe’s so-called AI start-ups don’t in fact use AI in any of their products. So, what really has changed and what will change?

For those working in communications and change management, the day-to-day reality of AI really is no different from other business issues and initiatives. Whatever the business rationale for harnessing AI, and the business benefits expected, the approach should seem strangely familiar:

  • Build a rigorous platform for change. Invest in proper research to understand the organisational climate for change
  • Use the data to get under the skin of the organisation. Not only will it help bust some of the myths, but will usually deliver some surprisingly useful insights
  • Define precisely the context of and rationale for change
  • Involve people in the developing the change. People don’t normally resist what they create. This is what we call “converting influencers into campaigners”
  • Align leadership at every level
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Look to align systems, processes and people to sustain effort

As with any shiny new thing, AI is really just the means to an end rather than end in itself. It’s a bit like all things ‘digital’ from a few years back and the rush to create ‘digital’ functions within organisations which are now being hurriedly dismantled.

Taking a human approach to AI means ensuring its adoption is part of an organisation’s business strategy and not a stand-alone strategy divorced from the day-to-day operating environment. We all have a vital role to help cut through the hype and reinforce the people part of change. Until that is we are all replaced by machines…