With AI knocking our doors, many organisations are beginning to recognise its growing dominance. However, not many may be thinking about its likely assault on organisational culture—one of the key pillars of organisational performance. Traditionally, people have always been at the core of services. In the AI-era, the key question is: Will people remain at the core or will machines slowly displace them? This has some profound implications for culture.
How should organisations, especially in the services industry, transform their culture to leverage AI and not be swept aside by its disruptive wave?
This paper explores four key AI-led challenges, and the corresponding new cultural values organizations should consider, for staying relevant:
Over time, in many services, the boundary where humans leave and machines take over would get blurred (e.g., airline pricing already belongs to algorithms; diagnostics could be next). Challenge: On one side, organizations could face tech talent crunch, while on the other, non-tech individuals might stare at a bleak future, both pulling down the performance.
Cultural response: Convert fear into opportunity; integrate tech into work; heavily invest in new learning initiatives; and reward learning. Let’s call this new core value as “Machine Friendliness”.
In services, excellence is synonymous with “working together”. But “AI-experts” could bring in their own occupational sub-culture and dominance, distancing themselves from the rest (non-AI colleagues), both in terms of behaviours and expectations. Challenge: Unless organisations are adequately prepared, the majority of employees, non-AI, could end up disheartened, badly impacting inter-personal trust and collaborative spirit throughout.
Cultural response: Cultivate empathy and kindness. Let’s call this as “Respectful Co-existence”.
Services, especially tech-driven, are becoming large eco-systems. While technology/ AI integrates the eco-system partners at a tangible level, they still need a common belief to cooperate (e.g., shared mobility will benefit the world). Challenge: Any cooperation amongst partners at a level less than the best could mean suboptimal performance.
Cultural response: Articulate and rally around a common world-view, a belief that transcends individual missions of partners. Let’s call this “Inspiring World-view”.
With machines becoming smarter, employees could get tripped emotionally, leading not only to a personal crisis but a larger social crisis. Being largely people-driven, services organisations are especially vulnerable. Challenge: How to avoid pushing humans towards a hopeless, jobless future?
Cultural response: Allow humanity to prosper, by redesigning roles and relationships around our unique endowments of emotions, creativity, hope, and yearning. Let’s call this as “Human Centricity”.
As AI marches on, organisations need to proactively transform their culture by cultivating more relevant values such as the four mentioned above. They need to act now.