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Who Will Be a Better Predictor of AI Adoption: Management or Workers?

By Craig Roth | May 29, 2018 | 0 Comments


Let’s say you are going to do a survey on AI to determine how prevalent it is today, which industries and roles are most likely to implement it, and how quickly it will be adopted in the future. Do you think it would be better to survey line-level employees or executives?

I don’t actually need the answer to that question since we cheated and just did two surveys, one for each! But as we pour through the results it is interesting to think about which answers are the best predictors of the future.

The case for executives and leadership is pretty clear: they get to make the decisions. And they are paying for the technology as well, so it won’t happen without their support. They also have the power to hire new AI talent, lay off newly unneeded workers, or force employees to do what the AI needs (or tells) them to do. Besides, the workers will exaggerate their own importance and role and will report that they could never be replaced by machines. Clearly the survey of management will provide the most accurate assessment of what organizations will do with AI.

Or maybe not?

The workers have a street-level view (or factory floor view, or hospital floor view depending on the industry) of what their job is really like. The workers have the best idea of how often the rulebook doesn’t apply, how frequently human communication and empathy come into play, and how repeatable their tasks are. And talk about power: nothing will get done without their support. From striking all the way down to simply not fully engaging in learning opportunities, the front line workers need to be on board and interested to work with the new technology if AI is to yield sustained value. As for exaggerating their own importance in processes, they have quite a lot to fear at the moment and are more likely to exaggerate their odds of being replaced by the vaunted new technology and underestimate how difficult simple human tasks can be for machines. Besides, the executives will exaggerate the ability of money and technology to yield success. Ah, now it’s clear the worker survey will provide the best assessment of AI in organizations.

What do you think? Either way, we’ve got you covered.

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