That’s the key question leaders should ask themselves in this era of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and continuous technology disruption. So says Terry Stuart, Chief Innovation Officer for Deloitte Canada, AI expert, and a keen observer of Canada’s technology landscape.
Two years ago, Deloitte surveyed 700 business leaders across Canada to determine how prepared their organizations were for advancing technology and continuing market disruption. The resulting study, “The Age of Disruption”, found only 13% of organizations “highly prepared,” while another 23% had started tackling these issues. Twenty-nine percent of firms were judged to be “struggling,” while a full 35% were considered “wholly unprepared.”
Today, says Stuart, the outlook is brighter. From Atlantic Canada to the oil sands of Alberta and beyond, he finds Canadian business leaders are overcoming fear and uncertainty and beginning to master new technologies and identify new business opportunities. “Disruption is unavoidable,” says Stuart. “I don’t want to let the foot off the accelerator for anybody, but my sense is that people are waking up.”
In his opening keynote address to RSI’s AI Sustainable Futures Summit on March 28, Stuart will define the key challenge facing today’s executives: not just understanding the impact of new technologies such as AI, robotics, advanced manufacturing and cloud-based networks, but harnessing them to achieve new efficiencies, greater capabilities and sustainable competitive advantage. “As leaders, it’s our duty to be aware of these trends and step up, if we’re going to change Canada’s trajectory of innovation and productivity.”
Success starts with alerting your entire team to the need for broader awareness of technology trends, and identifying sources of information and support that can help your teams not just react, but respond.
For instance, Stuart notes that Canada has been a leading player in the development of artificial intelligence. As a result, AI centres of excellence are now popping up all over, such as Toronto’s Vector Institute, the University of Waterloo’s Artificial Intelligence Institute, and the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms. In addition, Stuart urges leaders to engage with their local incubators and accelerators, where they can advise, learn from or partner with tech-savvy startups that are challenging existing norms and developing bold new business models.
Some of the questions leaders should be asking:
- If our industry is going to get disrupted, what do we do about that?
- How can we get educated about new technologies and new opportunities?
- How can I start developing new game plans?
- How can we avoid surprises? How are we future-proofing our institutions?
- Are we doing enough fast enough?
Today’s technology-driven change, says Stuart, “is not just about fear, uncertainty and doubt. AI and automation have an amazing potential to drive costs down. That will free up a lot of resources to do new things.”
Organizations will also have to consider the consequences of their decisions, Stuart adds. For instance, if AI and machine learning enable corporations to lay off hundreds or even thousands of employees, what will be the social cost? What responsibility will business have for retraining or re-deploying those people? “There are a lot of societal implications to consider,” Stuart notes. “How do we educate our executives and teams in the power of these technologies – and the responsibility that involves?”
The time to answer these questions is now. All technology revolutions produce winners and losers, but this time around you have less time to choose which role you’ll play. “Previous revolutions took 40 years to sort out,” says Stuart. “This one is happening really fast. Not quite overnight, but it’s pretty damn close.”