By Ryan Falkenberg
With the onset of increasingly specific answers to specific challenges so known and prescribed decisions and intelligent systems capable of outperforming humans in many areas, the threat of mass job loss is real. Wherever decisions and actions are guided by known and repeatable formulae, technologies can increasingly outperform people, thereby rendering them redundant.
Traditional skill development models continue to be constrained by industrial era thinking, driven mainly by the need to develop a compliant workforce. Learning methods focus heavily on the transfer of known, historical knowledge into learners’ heads, with tests merely validating the successful data transfer.
The challenge is that people often learn using short term memory, and so while they may pass the test, they tend to forget much of what is learned through lack of application. In addition, the data they are taught is changing so quickly that they soon find themselves outdated and vulnerable. As a result, they make mistakes – mistakes that artificial intelligence (AI) technology does not make.
To enable organisations to thrive within a knowledge economy, much attention has focused on technologies and approaches that improve the capture, maintenance, and distribution of organisational information across a diverse workforce. Vast improvements have been made in areas such as information search, content management, quality control workflows and collaboration. Yet, staff still struggle to take full advantage of all the ‘helpful’ information that is increasingly available to them.
One possible reason is that it is not more information they require. In tackling jobs that demand increasing conformity to known organisational formulae, they seek they can perform specific tasks without error. This means they are usually more interested in accessing relevant advice, not relevant information.
This requires a change in our thinking. It requires shifting our focus from the effective capture and distribution of information or single-dimensional logic to the effective capture and distribution of advisory or multi-dimensional logic. It requires us becoming less interested in offering people decision-making maps, and more excited about offering them decision-making GPSs.
Local AI platform CLEVVA was founded based on the belief that unless we can find a way of using AI to empower people, as opposed to replacing them, job losses could prove devastating, especially in developing economies.
The CLEVVA team looked at ways of capturing expert logic into decision-making GPSs (as opposed to “maps” such as documents, process flows or e-modules). These GPSs (or virtual advisors as they call them) effectively offer people an expert at their fingertips, able to navigate them through any known situation so they consistently ask the right questions, identify the right answers, and take the right actions, with detailed records to prove it.
As a result, staff don’t need to know every product, policy or procedure to get working. They can rather focus their learning and efforts on areas where the formula is not as defined, such as in the area of the customer experience.
By making expertise, as opposed to simply knowledge, available to people, in realtime, it changes the role of people and the focus of training. People are no longer required to simply replicate historically.
Actions that are detailed in products, policies, systems and procedures – AI can handle this for them. Instead, they can be liberated to focus on shaping new thinking and offering high impact, non-formulaic customer experiences.
By using AI to augment human performance, rather than replace it, organisations will be able to achieve the consistency in execution they desire while benefiting from the creative, adaptive and innovative value of their staff – value that is currently not being unearthed simply because staff are still primarily being used to replicate known formulae. It also allows organisations to adopt AI without being compelled to fundamentally rethink their existing business models.
This form of AI is currently being used in banks, insurers, petroleum companies, electronic distributors, and telcos – and is not only securing existing jobs, but opening up the possibility for job creation.
CLEVVA’s platform lets people easily and quickly build virtual advisors that contain all the knowledge someone like, for example, a call centre agent, would need to handle queries. Training then becomes a matter of teaching people excellent customer engagement, and problem-solving skills rather than reams and reams of product and processes information.
This means that people of all skill levels can become valuable resources, and lets companies onboard people quickly when they hire.
If South Africa is going to address its ongoing skills challenges, it needs to look to technology to empower people, not replace them. AI can help.