As if the global economy isn’t complex enough, “intelligent machines” – or computers and applications that collect and analyze data – will play an increasing role in organizations’ operations.
Most everyone’s aware of it, but are they excited about it?
According to a study release this month, while most managers believe that cognitive computing will improve their work, and potentially make it more interesting, at least a third of them are concerned about whether this same technology will put them out of work.
In Accenture Strategy’s, “Managers and machines, unite!” of the more than 1,700 respondents – managers at all levels – 57 percent reported uncertainty about whether they have the skills to succeed in their role over the next five years.
As it stands, managers are spending much of their time working on what the study’s authors believe smart machines will be doing in the future including: planning and coordinating work, solving problems and handling exceptions, monitoring and reporting performance, maintaining routines and standards, and analyzing and sharing information.
Though we anticipate that future technology advancements will free managers up to focus on facets of their day-to-day work that require higher-order reasoning and complex thinking – tasks more “uniquely human” – managers are concerned about the threat of intelligent machines to their jobs, the study shows. Those who reported the most concern 50 percent of managers working in the electronics and high technology, followed by 49 percent of banking managers, 42 percent of managers in the commercial airlines industry and 41 percent in retail.
But it may be a case of, fear not. As scary as the future might seem to some managers, at least some of the concern might be unmerited. Managers may rightly believe the skills most valuable in the next five years revolve around technology and tasks forseeably done by technology, but the study suggests that they shouldn’t underestimate the power of the personal touch.
Consider, some 42 percent of managers said it was “most important,” to possess digital and technology skills. Yet, only about 20 percent of managers found social networking, people development and collaboration were critical to their success.
The water gets murkier if one considers that confidence in the advice of intelligent systems diminishes as one moves down the ranks. Whereas 46 percent of executive-level managers feel confident in the decision-making abilities of intelligent systems, 24 percent of mid-level managers said they would trust the advice of such a system, and only 14 percent of front-line managers do.
While it is a worthy investment to continuously build skills to meet the opportunities intelligent computing offers, to neglect the development and strengthening of important soft skills like good communication and effective management won’t be worthwhile.
“The workforce of the future needs to have more intuition, creativity and emotional intelligence,” said David Smith, senior managing director of Accenture Strategy in a statement. “Intelligent machines cannot provide that but do give managers the time to bring these attributes to the fore and allow them to experiment, innovate and capture new growth opportunities.