Artificial intelligence is in the air: Ready or not – Why managers should foster digital readiness of their firms

Artificial intelligence is in the air: Ready or not – Why managers should foster digital readiness of their firms

Anne Gfrerer, March 2019

In the last years, technology has gradually become invisible and digital ubiquity is arising in our daily work and private lives. This is also true for artificial intelligence and its impact for companies to succeed in the digital age. Organizations must foster their digital readiness, which decides about their future business model and which encompasses a range of aspects: it comprises the capability of companies to obtain the benefits which arise from information technology, including their successful transformation into truly digital enterprises and using innovative technologies like artificial intelligence, and people’s individual preparedness to embrace and use the new digital technologies for their jobs. Although there is substantial evidence that digital readiness positively influences company outcome in the digital world and employees have to be ready, studies show, that the associated capabilities are only rarely in place. This goes along with a perceived lack of digitally skilled and experienced managers, who do not have enough knowledge about innovation and major digital trends and who are not yet able to fasten reaction speed and to foster an innovation culture of their firms, which is seen as one of the most important innovation barriers by many employees.

In times, where innovation decides about a company´s wealth and autonomous innovation is a future outlook, this matters even more: Possibly in the future roboters and machines will support innovation processes in fields like scouting, idea generation, but also in areas like innovation team set ups in form of performance predictions and emotion tracking. There might be people-roboter innovation teams collaborating to succeed. This implies even more, that companies have to be prepared and have to enlarge their digital readiness by far. Managers do play a major role in the course of this and new leadership skills are becoming a necessary precondition in the digital world. So what should managers do? In a nutshell, the author proposes three core measures to be taken to succeed: First, the advancing of the own digital readiness of managers matters, as leaders are perceived as role models for the employees.

Having digital knowledge – e.g. on important digital trend topics like blockchain, artificial intelligence or digital ubiquity – and digital skills on their own, and not leaving this over to digital experts, enables managers to better develop a digital strategy, rate digital innovation ideas, define the right problems to be solved and bring business forward in this respect or act as game changers in their industry branch. Dealing with ambidextry – exploiting core business and exploring new business models at the same time – requires digitally enabled mangers on a broader scale. Second, managers should foster life long learning of their employees and enable employees to become more digitally mature, according to the motto from “knowing it all” to “learning it all”. This needs a growth mindset, that empowers people to outgrow themselves. Third, on an organizational level, managers should foster shared beliefs and an open innovation culture. With this goes along, that management communication therefore has to be adjusted accordingly.

To sum up, artificial intelligence can be seen as a great chance for individuals and organizations as well, and managers do play an important role to make the best use out of it for their business to succeed. Nevertheless, in times of artificial intelligence also humans and their skills, that machines can´t learn – like creativity at the first place – will get relevant even more.