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Business

Leaders and technology

BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong - The Philippine Star

Why did the robot go back to Robot School? The answer is that “the robot’s skills are getting a little rusty!” This joke is corny, and for your information, we no longer call them robots, but “bots” or “robotics.”

I have gotten invitations to attend webinars sponsored by technology companies or industry leaders explaining, forecasting, and predicting what the business landscape would be like once AI, automation, robotics, and self-learning machines become ubiquitous. If I were to summarize and simplify all these offerings, the screaming message is that “Leaders better embrace technology and not run from it!”

All these technologies will NOT be on their way because they are ALREADY HERE. Denying technology’s impact upon business and leadership, being skeptical, and hesitant about it will get you nowhere.

While there used to be senior managers who demonize technology rather than embrace it, the pandemic has forced their hands to accept that digital is the new default. If they still refuse to embrace technology, they might as well pack up and go home... although, they are still locked down in their homes for more than a year now.

Let me present another perspective on this issue of technology and leadership. Leaders may also be tempted to rely too much on technology to cut costs, improve productivity and increase efficiency, but at the expense of making their organization less human.

There seems to be a surge of business articles addressing this issue. I recently attended webinars and master classes of innovation guru Gary Hamel, strategy expert Rita McGrath, and organizational psychologist Dr. Adam Grant. All of them touched on this subject matter. It was as if they all got together and decided to address the same issue. The lesson these gurus are teaching is that we should use technology to make our organization even more human.

Companies that have plenty of money to spend sometimes use technology simply for the sake of having it. Have you ever felt the stress of having to call the customer service of a credit card or utility company? You hear the recorded voice saying, “Your call is important to us,” but you are made to wait for an eternity, punching countless of buttons as instructed before you can get anything done, which is not much actually. In the process of doing so, I find myself saying, “Human! Human! Give me a human being, please!” How about those chatbots that now, every company seems to be using. Has anyone ever found a chatbot helpful? I hope so, but apparently, they do not. Technology shouldn’t be used to put an additional layer between people. It should be used to remove layers to get people closer together.

A huge multinational manufacturing company CEO says: “The leader’s job will be to humanize everything. Humans require the human touch to be inspired. They cannot be inspired by interacting with robots and artificial intelligence.” Leaders must understand the abilities and limits of both humans and technology. The future is not about technology versus humans. It’s about technology working with humans against a problem. This will only work if you understand what humans and technology can and cannot do. We are already starting to see the integration of more technology in many aspects of our jobs and lives, whether robots on the manufacturing floor, “smart assistants” in our homes and offices or bots doing automated routine aspects of work.

Rather than thinking about how technology will replace humans or the endless discussion of technology versus humans, the focus should be on the human aspects of work while letting technology handle the more mundane aspects of our jobs.

Humans excel at things like leadership, creativity, and making human connections. These fall within the domain and dominion of humans and cannot be done effectively by technology. Technology dominates in speed, processing, and data analysis which would equip leaders with the tools for better decision making.

Imagine you are building a team and how you would put people of different strengths that would supplement or complement one another. This flavor is the same when working with technology. Technology is a tool we use.

This brings us back to the original premise that leaders better embrace technology and not run from it. You cannot outrun it unless you want to drop out of the game.

 

 

(Francis Kong’s highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership Master Class online will be held from June 22 to 24. Develop leadership skills that translate into personal, career, and business growth in the current reality and the post-COVID world. For inquiries and reservations, contact April at +63928-559-1798 or and for more information, visit www.levelupleadership.ph)

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