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Change management in the AI age: How to sidestep common mistakes

rebecca hindsRebecca Hinds
January 25th, 2024
3 min read
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This article was originally published on Reworked.

In this thrilling era of artificial intelligence (AI), we’re not just witnessing a technological evolution; we’re at the brink of a human revolution. The promise of AI is dazzling, offering gains in efficiency and productivity. But too many leaders are racing towards a future without giving enough thought to change management in the AI era.

Here are four evidence-based strategies to help ensure that AI acts as a catalyst to amplify human potential in your organization, rather than overshadowing it: 

1. Balance automation with human insight

AI can automate mundane tasks in seconds that once took your employees hours. Yet leaders are falling into the seductive trap of over-automation. It’s a path that can lead to lapses in human judgment and an alarming inability to intervene when AI systems falter, sometimes causing severe productivity losses. Some companies have already stumbled down this path, paying a heavy price for over-automating human work. 

The art of AI leadership is about orchestrating a delicate balance. Use AI to sweep away the mundane or repetitive tasks that bog down workflows, and channel human energy into areas that thrive on intuition and emotional intelligence such as strategic planning, mentorship and employee development. The history of social media whispers cautionary tales of the unintended fallout of unchecked technology adoption. Success in the AI era requires a conscious integration of human skills and AI capabilities.

2. Explain the “why” of AI

Confusion breeds resistance. When employees are handed a tool without understanding its purpose or potential, they may view it with suspicion or even fear. The result? Research shows that if employees are forced to use AI technology without understanding how it works or how it benefits them, they may resist or merely pretend to use it.

Don't just introduce AI; explain it. Share the “why” behind the technology, the problems it solves and the opportunities it creates. Make it a story of intentionality and purpose, not a directive. In communicating this “why,” frame AI as a partner, not a replacement. Use terms like "amplified intelligence" to highlight how AI enhances human abilities rather than supplanting them. At H&M, leaders successfully framed AI as "amplified intelligence" to underscore its role in enhancing human skills, creating an environment where employees were eager to adopt the technology.

3. Make upskilling an organizational commitment

In the ever-accelerating world of AI, standing still is falling behind. As AI continues to learn and evolve, so must your employees. But upskilling in the AI era isn't merely about technical skills; it's about nurturing resilience, agility, curiosity and a passion for continuous learning. Companies that embrace AI upskilling as a business imperative will stay competitive, while those that neglect it risk losing talent and trailing behind.

In our research at The Work Innovation Lab by Asana, we recently conducted a survey among more than 300 marketing professionals. We found that only 15% said their organization offers any formal AI training or learning development initiatives. However, among those who did have access to formal AI training, there was a marked increase in both excitement about AI and confidence in its potential. 55% of marketers whose organizations offer AI training or learning development initiatives are confident in their organization’s ability to use AI to achieve their marketing-related objectives over the next 12 months, compared to just 23% of marketers whose organizations don’t offer these initiatives. This striking finding highlights the transformative power of AI-related learning and development in shaping positive attitudes and fostering a culture of readiness for AI. 

As a leader, it’s critical that you invest in and commit to AI upskilling as a business imperative. Upskilling is more than a strategy; it's a statement of belief in human potential and a commitment to nurturing it.

4. Champion collective impact over individual productivity

In the race to harness AI for personal productivity, you can’t lose sight of the bigger picture. The allure of individual gains can lead to a dangerous "tragedy of the commons" scenario, where the collective good is sacrificed for isolated productivity gains. Picture an employee using AI to auto-assign tasks at lightning speed, only to create a storm of collaboration overload and unmanageable demands on their team. 

The "paradox of automation" warns that overreliance on AI can breed complacency and reduce oversight of the system. This can lead to a landscape where individual productivity soars, but at a hidden cost: overworked teams, fragmented collaboration and silos that stifle work and innovation. 

As a leader, you’re no longer just a strategist or a manager; you are now a steward of a delicate ecosystem where technology and humanity intertwine. Emphasize the power of collaboration over isolated efficiency. AI's true potential shines when it's used to enhance teamwork, communication and shared goals. Regularly assess the impact of AI on team dynamics as well. Be vigilant for signs of overload or fragmentation and be ready to recalibrate as needed. You need to take accountability for both the dazzling successes and the shadowed complexities of AI integration.

Amplified intelligence, not just artificial  

The journey through the AI revolution is not a sprint towards technology adoption. It calls for a mindful and collaborative approach, where technology amplifies human capabilities rather than replacing them. The future of work isn't merely artificial — it's amplified, where humans and machines work together in symbiotic partnership, unlocking new realms of possibilities. This is our opportunity to write a future where technology doesn't overshadow humanity but illuminates its full potential.

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