Brian Evergreen, Founder and CEO of The Profitable Good Company, speaks with Robert Lutton, VP at Sandhill Consultants and Editorial Board Vice Chair for CDO Magazine, in a video interview about the importance of the human element in harnessing AI benefits, reorganizing the organization, challenges to extracting the economic potential of technology, perspectives on the jobs and the balancing of labor, and automation.
Initiating the conversation, Evergreen posits that the inspiration that drove him to write the book “Autonomous Transformations - Creating a More Human Future in the Era of Artificial Intelligence,” stemmed from his humanities background. He had studied chess and music theory and composition and worked in the corporate sphere on strategy and technology, and ultimately Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Evergreen always thought that technology and humanities were distinct things, but with research, which included interviewing 50 leaders across sectors, he understood how closely related the two were.
Explaining further, Evergreen insists that technology is not the problem when it comes to only 13% of AI initiatives making it into production in today's workplace. Instead, it is due to a failure to take the human element into account.
Highlighting Microsoft's success story, Evergreen recalls CEO Satya Nadella’s saying on having a new technology, business, people, and culture strategy. He notes that for organizations to truly benefit from their AI initiative, the culture strategy must focus on the human element from the beginning.
Brian Evergreen | Founder and CEO of The Profitable Good Company
In addition, he suggests that to harness the economic potential of AI and rehumanize work, reorganizing the organization must come first. Evergreen refers to this reorganization as a change in 'factions,' which are data, business, and technology.
In continuation, he observes that a hundred years ago, industry leaders had the purchasing power and were calling the shots. Fifty years ago, the rise of shareholder primacy allowed business leaders to have more of an influence. Whereas, over the last 30 years, technology leaders have transitioned from the backroom to the boardroom.
Now, these three groups of intelligent, capable, and educated people all strive to be heard, says Evergreen. Therefore, he stresses that when problems arise due to this demanding environment, it is not a technology issue, but a social system problem.
According to him, managing the organization more as a system of people, rather than of machines, is key to the success of the reorganization. This shift creates an emphasis on understanding people in every facet of the organization.
Speaking of challenges, Evergreen contends that some of the roadblocks that modern society has inherited from the Industrial Revolution are linked to Frederick Taylor's 1911 book ‘Principles of Scientific Management.’ He shares Taylor’s argument that, in the past, man has been first, but in the future, the system must be first.
Evergreen states that Taylor proposed process mapping, process optimization, and other techniques to reduce human variability in production to increase repeatability, optimize results, and lay the foundation for modern society.
However, he observes that the current working environment is markedly different from what it was in 1911. There is much greater access to power and information than before, says Evergreen. As a result, people today know far more than was the case in the past, and consequently, a different style of leadership is required.
Continuing further, he believes that data science leaders sometimes practice a form of 'data science Taylorism.' Rather than speaking with experts in the field and taking their expertise into account when creating data-driven designs and processes, they simply rely on the data. This often results in a separation between the people creating the systems and the people doing the work, elaborates Evergreen.
To prevent this, he proposes a better way forward in which the solution is designed collaboratively with all stakeholders present, regardless of credentials. Unless this is done, Evergreen believes the economic potential of these technologies will remain unrealized.
When asked about job outlook, he claims that there are three perspectives on jobs – job protectionism, job fatalism, and job pragmatism.
Job Protectionism is the idea that the current tasks that makeup jobs should be protected at all costs to protect the people who hold those positions.
Job Fatalism, on the other hand, assumes that robots and technology are taking away jobs, and doesn't take into account other aspects.
Lastly, Job Pragmatism states that technology will transform jobs, so leaders should plan and provide their employees an opportunity to reskill or upskill. Leaders should also consider investing in new product lines that may require more transactional work that can't be easily automated.
In conclusion, Evergreen recalls speaking with the CEO at Advanced Robotics Manufacturing, who stated that contrary to job displacement, the implementation of robotics led to a balance between labor and automation, resulting in a better human experience.
CDO Magazine appreciates Brian Evergreen for sharing his insights with our global community.