In an age of increasing automation and artificial intelligence (AI), executives across the globe foresee a rapidly evolving operating landscape in the year ahead.
But new research from global consulting firm, AT Kearney, finds confidence is growing in the C-Suite that technology will help businesses navigate this increasingly complex and rapidly changing environment.
Despite the prevalence of technology and demand for technical skills in business, leaders are also recognising the “differentiating role” of non-technical and interpersonal skills such as creativity and leadership.
According to Maintaining the Human Connection in the Age of AI report, while these skills are not only difficult to find they are also expected to become even more important to business success.
This perceived scarcity of these skills suggests that demand to develop AI endowed with emotional intelligence could intensify, AT Kearney notes.
And executives’ growing emphasis on cultivating relationships with consumers and suppliers further indicates that personal interactions are more important than ever to commercial success.
In parallel, consumer preferences for local and sustainable goods and the rising importance of mayors and cities in an era of growing protectionism underpin broader global shifts away from traditional globalisation, the report reveals.
The survey findings point to a range of actions for business leaders to undertake. In the year ahead, executives will need to recalibrate their strategies for multi-localism, respond to changing consumer preferences, clearly define priorities in talent management, set realistic expectations for AI, and manage geopolitical risk.
Looking ahead to a time when AI may be endowed with emotional intelligence is absolutely fascinating but, in the meantime, we must make sure that we apply our uniquely human skills as expertly as we possible can
“Companies must adapt to the shifts in consumer preferences as well as those in the broader geopolitical and technological landscape,” said Courtney Rickert McCaffrey, manager of thought leadership for the Global Business Policy Council (a strategic service of AT Kearney), and co-author of the study.
“The most successful companies will set realistic expectations for new technologies in the short term while building a strong workforce that is capable of realising the full potential of these advances for years to come.”
Some 450 C-level executives and board members from around the world were quizzed for the survey. They were asked to assess what they see as the leading opportunities and challenges in the global business operating environment over the next 12 months.
Rialto director, Richard Chiumento, sits on the All-Parliamentary Party Group on Artificial Intelligence, which was set up with the aim of exploring the impact and implications of AI and leaders. Commenting on the report, he said it clearly demonstrates the importance of evolving leadership skills and capabilities and placing a premium on soft skills and areas such as creativity and innovation.
“Technologies such as AI may prove to be a leveller in some areas of the business initially so competitive advantage will come from those tasks and operations where it doesn’t yet excel,” he said. “Looking ahead to a time when AI may be endowed with emotional intelligence is absolutely fascinating but, in the meantime, we must make sure that we apply our uniquely human and personal skills as expertly as we possible can.”