Reimagining Disruption: Improving the Workplace with AI Technology

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The word “disruption” carries heavy, often negative, connotations, yet it frequently surfaces in conversations about the impact of new technologies on business. Take this Harvard Business Review piece about the concept of “Disruptive Innovation.” We imagine systems being upended, processes redone and the ways we’re used to doing things eliminated. And we think while some people may benefit, many others will lose.

Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies hold transformative potential for the way people engage with and in their work, despite the misunderstandings that abound, perhaps defined by the clichéd picture of robots quietly gliding along factory floors with barely a human in sight. From tech novices to seasoned experts, people have a tendency to think big about AI – in fact, maybe too big.

First, we must center ourselves around the positive realities of AI in order to truly benefit from it. That starts with defining the terms of the game. Rather than seeing AI as a transactional process of winners and losers, we can embrace the view endorsed by Accenture executive and author Paul Daugherty, who explains this technology in mathematical terms. “Human plus machine equals superpowers,” he said a few years back, describing a collaborative process that drew on the strength of each side. Machines are good at repetition, people at communication and creativity – with each augmenting, not replacing, the best qualities of the other.

The second point is not to restrict AI to bold, grand projects, while overlooking what it can do to transform more ordinary aspects of day-to-day operations. For example, while businesses recognize the power of employing new technology to improve their processes, just a few years ago well over half worried they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the pace of technological change. But fears of speed could prove misplaced if those companies are strategic about their AI use.

In 2018, the HBR published a study of 152 projects in more than 200 companies, concluding that applying AI to highly-ambitious projects was actually less effective than adoption in so-called “low-hanging fruit” projects, ones that were simple implementations and enhanced everyday business processes.

Additionally, more than half of chief executives surveyed said that AI enhanced the features, functions and performance of products, and just under 40% said workers were freed to focus on more creative tasks and made better decisions. As for some of their concerns, about half identified integration barriers as an obstacle, referring to tech that could not be scaled quickly or that did not fit into existing systems. Few companies want or can afford to totally reinvent the wheel.

Our own experience at SightCall, refined over 12+ years of experience, is that companies have embraced solutions like ours to enhance their workforce processes in a range of industries. From auto manufacturers to doctors’ offices, our ability to leverage best-in-class technologies on our AI- and augmented reality (AR)-enabled remote video call platform has eased their ability to fine-tune their business models.

Features like optical character recognition, on-screen annotations and solid capabilities even in low-bandwidth environments are well-received. But what we’ve noticed above all is how companies require close integrations with their existing systems, plus the ability to rapidly upscale. Both are essential tools to applying AI to the “low-hanging fruit” of operations.

For example, with the SightCall platform able to be quickly incorporated into a manufacturer’s existing Salesforce CRM, the tool can be effectively inserted into that company’s effort to implement global machine maintenance operations. If the service expert with the best answer to a pressing maintenance question in England is based in Japan, it takes only the click of a button to connect one to the other. In the not-so-distant future, we may witness the emergence of a subtitle-based translation feature that breaks down language and other communication barriers between workers and experts across the globe.

With the right uses and, perhaps more importantly, the right expectations, artificial intelligence is destined to change what we imagine from the term “disruption.” Far from being sidelined, workers will find themselves at the heart of more responsive and efficient enterprises, freed to create, question and reimagine what is possible.

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