An Executive’s Guide to Leaning into Technology: Exploring the Divide Between Humans and Machines

A human hand and a robotic hand playing the piano.
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Do technological advancements mean reducing human capacity and purpose? Or do human empathy and understanding far surpass what AI can offer, making AI a threat?

Maybe it’s not about finding what is superior but more about finding the right balance between using technology and human skills. Let’s explore how you can build a digital-first mentality in your organization and what a good mix of humans and automation looks like.

 

Navigating The Relationship Between Humans and Machines

As technology transforms the business landscape, executives must learn to navigate the complex relationship between humans and machines. This journey is filled with opportunities and challenges presented by emerging technologies we have little knowledge of.

Instead of forcing employees to incorporate new technologies immediately, give them the opportunities to grow and experience the learning curve at their own pace. Humans should be given the tools and technical upgrades to serve our individual purposes, not the other way around. If you want to elevate your business and gain a competitive edge, empower your employees and improve their technological prowess.

However, it’s crucial not to get lost in the tech-verse and to keep true to what serves your mission the most. What’s not broken does not need to be fixed, and that philosophy becomes essential when mass changes need to be implemented within an organization. As a leader, you must choose the most impactful upgrades and prepare teams to implement those rather than executing elaborate overhauls to stay lean and agile.

 

Driving A Digital-First Approach

The impact of digital transformation can be monumental. However, before getting excited at its future impacts, you must first prioritize the present and identify current concerns and challenges. Employees may be weary of change, the management may need to change, or there might be skill gaps that must be closed; whichever the case may be, these issues will require immediate action.

 

Humanistic vs. Digital First

A humanistic approach does not come at the expense of a digital-first approach. They should complement each other and mutually exist. Emotions do not run machines. They don’t understand morale, satisfaction, or security. On the other hand, humans run machines and are driven by emotions and feelings. So, as an employer, which one should you prioritize?

Depending on your goals, the answer may vary. But remember that your company is not reliant on machines, AI, or automation alone. So, it’s best to identify human challenges that can help them navigate work. Whether technology adaptation, skill gaps, understanding, or expertise, finding solutions to these concerns will help your workforce utilize technology in their everyday responsibilities.

AI and machines are combinations of ones and zeros, and they can be perfect most of the time, depending on their programming. However, humans are not machines. They will make mistakes and will encounter setbacks. To alleviate their concerns, try to have room for errors. And whenever you can, reward them for their work and contributions.

 

Do humans hate technology?

This can be a double-edged sword. People don’t typically hate technology. It’s just that technology brings a lot of changes and may cause job displacement, privacy, and ethical concerns, among others.

However, with the right mindset, most people would agree on the benefit and impact of digital transformation on an organization—after all, they see it across the globe and in their personal lives.

As leaders, it’s your responsibility to lead them in the right direction where they can enjoy the benefits of technology and build systems and structures that will support and empower your employees in the long run.

 

Practical Strategies to Leverage Tech with Minimal Resistance

Ensuring a smooth transformation requires high employee engagement, not just in implementing the change but also in providing critical feedback and creative solutions from the ground. This is an excellent time not to undermine human power.

 

Weave learning into the culture.

Further down the organization, a learning culture must be developed to address and counteract these challenges. So, whether you are looking into machine learning solutions, data science, automation tools, or digitization, the future operators of the system must be keen on learning and adjusting new concepts and structures.

Package the transformation well enough to win employee buy-in, get them excited and motivated for change, then dive into the process and slowly incorporate the new technologies.

 

Fail fast. 

Digitalization, automation, and AI integration can cause employees to worry about the unknown, doubt their skills, fear their job security, or simply try their best to learn the new tools to excel in their roles. If they can quickly succeed, it would benefit both your workforce and your company. But what if they don’t?

Have you heard of the idea of “Failing fast”? You can apply it here. Start by testing the waters. If your team is bound to fail, let it be faster. Then, help them wherever possible or pivot right away. The goal is to find quick solutions to those shortcomings and equip your employees right away so they can move on. If something is bound to collapse, it might as well “fail fast” so you can spend your time and resources elsewhere.

 

Practical Strategies to Leverage Tech with Minimal Disruption

Transformation is like a crooked path. Even with the most competent employees, extensive research, coaches, trainers, dedication, or commitment, there will be some smoke. Here’s how you can put it out:

 

Align tools with your company values.

Understand the processes you want to implement with the utmost care. This thinking goes beyond cost-benefit analysis. According to McKinsey, 70 percent of digital transformation projects fail to meet the stated goals or expectations.1

Dive deep into why you need something and how to ensure it works. The answer to these questions should tie your project with your company values. Let the company values guide your decision-making when selecting tools, implementation efforts, and training programs. Assess your goals and objectives rationally and move forward with a well-informed, clear mind.

Read more: 5 Ways Leaders Can Foster a Purpose-Driven Company Culture

 

Continuous learning with an open mind.

You need to learn and relearn about technology; start by doing this yourself. Effective upskilling will occur when you keep an open mind. Even after weeks or months of training or learning, you see a better opportunity that can give more significant results; do that instead, and don’t hesitate.

Don’t let your current circumstances, whether good or bad, hinder you from achieving higher success. Avoid attachment to your ideas and stay logical. Remember, it’s never too late to pivot and course-correct.

Read more: Stay Agile, Stay Ahead: Flexibility is Key to Thrive in the Ever-Changing Tech Landscape

 

Neglect is costly.

Educate your employees if you notice any difficulty in catching on to the new tools and systems. Equip them with the soft skills, tech skills, or knowledge required to bridge the gap as soon as possible. Neglecting struggling employees will cost you in the long run. Remember that more than half fail in digital transformation? According to the report, a lack of change management is one of the common reasons.

A key priority for smooth digital transformation initiatives is a focus on education and access to resources that help make relearning more accessible for all involved.

Read more: Leading with Precision: 5 Tips for Leaders Balancing Vision and Operations

 

Mission To Innovation and Growth

Keeping these insights in mind will help you reassess your goals. A fresh outlook and a clear mind will help you find the right strategies. So, stay ahead of the curve in the age of digital evolution, value humans just as you would respect machines, and let them work hand in hand to drive the results you want for your company.

Your leadership, vision, and initiative will all make an impact—and no matter what you do, your employees will see these efforts. So, start by integrating the uniqueness of humanity and machines’ intellectual capacities and capabilities.

 

References

  1. “Why do most transformations fail?)” McKinsey, Jul. 2019, www.mckinsey.com/Why-do-most-transformations-fail-a-conversation-with-Harry-Robinson.pdf
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