During a recent episode of our What Anyone Can Do podcast, Randy Cantrell and I interviewed, Thomas Anglero, Director of Innovation, IBM Norway. Interestingly enough, we spent very little time talking about the specifics of Artificial Intelligence and other technologies that are poised to change the world of work as we know it. We actually spent more time talking about love, soul, and our humanity – aspects of who we are that transcend what any robot or machine can add to an organization.
It’s a reminder of how important being leaders of people first and integrating new technologies with this in mind will be paramount in the coming decades. One of the books I modeled my PR firm after during the late 90s was Hal Rosenbluth and Diane McFerrin Peters’ best seller, The Customer Comes Second. I would like to think that if they were to release a 2020 edition, they would tell us that employees still rank first, customers second, and robots third. Adopting this perspective will involve understanding the working definition of the term peernovation and crafting a dedicated People Plan for the years ahead.
Peer-no-va-tion (pir-nə-ˈvā-shən) combines the words peer (people like me, but not necessarily like me in every way) and innovation (creativity realized or operationalized). Peernovation is what happens when a group of people who share common values, yet offer different perspectives and skills, come together to bring ideas to life. A great example can be drawn from decades in the advertising/public relations business, where people who were passionate about producing great work brought their unique skills and experiences to a process that resulted in the creation and implementation of exceptional campaigns that no one person could have ever developed alone.
As organizations implement and integrate new technologies into the workplace, it’s just as important that CEOs double-down on maximizing the power and value of their human talent. Doing so will involve having a People Plan. Here’s a framework (modified from What Anyone Can Do: How Surrounding Yourself With the Right People Will Drive Change, Opportunity, and Personal Growth, divided into three sections (Prepare, Plan, Play):
- Have the right people and prepare them.Gather your team members and ask them what attributes they believe will be required of a person to be a uniquely successful member of the team in the future. Prepare these people for what’s to come so they can either help you or be of value to someone else down the road.
- Identify a purpose/group norms. Develop a collective understanding of the purpose of your team(s) and their group norms. It’s not just about what you expect of them, it’s what they expect from each other. How well will they embrace (not just accept) AI and collaborate effectively going forward?
- Create and encourage forums for sharing. Anxiety about the impact of AI is exacerbated by a lack of communication. Assuming you have the right people with the right attributes, consider establishing internal peer groups and encouraging people to join external mastermind groups, where employees can share common aspirations and challenges, and celebrate their respective growth and success.
- Build a trusting environment. Transparency builds trust, yet trust has many faces, including competence, reliability, commitment to the purpose, and so on. Consider trust a journey rather than a destination, and never take it for granted. A climate of trust is easier to build when your people see each other as people, not just fellow employees. It’s important that during the coming years, you as the CEO see it that way as well.
- Maximize productivity.Implementing AI alone won’t guarantee greater productivity, particularly in the early stages. How can you be certain the team and the technology are firing on all cylinders? Here, facilitating peernovation will be an essential part of the equation.
- Nurture a culture of mutual accountability.Accountability to the leader is one thing, but the magic happens when employees feel accountable to one another – when they take personal responsibility for bringing their A game, each and every day!
- Identify and celebrate small wins.Implementing new technologies and chasing lofty goals can be exhausting. As a result, it can be easy for a company and people comprising smaller teams to lose focus if they can’t see their progress. Map out interim points at which to declare victory and celebrate often.
- Practice servant leadership.As a CEO or team leader, you’re there to serve the team, not the other way around. Be part of the team, not apart from it! Keep people at the forefront and don’t get so fixated on the tools that you lose your way.
- Commit to continuous improvement. Don’t fixate on the goals, obsess over the people, technologies, and processes that make achieving those goals possible. Invest your time and energy in continuous improvement. Pay attention to your dashboards AND your culture.
When it comes to realizing a brighter future, both short and long-term, your ability to inspire high-octane peernovation will be as important as anything you do. For those who say that AI implementation will create more jobs than will be lost, your ability to put people first is what will bring that to life.
*Note: Leo Bottary will be joining international thought leaders on stage at Get Future Ready Now — The Executive Growth Alliance Summit on August 28, 2019 in Oslo, Norway.
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