One of the most important things leaders do during times of significant disruptive change is to understand the change, identify the impacts (both positively and negatively) of the change, and then embrace the change.
As a lead designer of artificial intelligence enabled learning solutions, I have had the opportunity over the past six months to explore and share the future of talent development with our clients and the reactions have been what you would expect from something so potentially disruptive to the status quo of talent development where a significant amount of the $100 billion spent on training is still done in a classroom environment.
The early adopters of AI-based training solutions have purchased it on the spot. The early majority is now asking for proposals. And the laggards are saying “it will never work and it’s too expensive.” It’s the same archetypes of reactions that we’ve seen over and over again in business and in the rest of the world; an automated horse and buggy? A radio? A telephone? A computer? A smartphone?
The “it” that I am describing is AI-based training solutions that create greater learning and increased performance with tremendous scalability at significantly reduced costs. The reality is here; we are now building and deploying AI-based training solutions that enable learners to engage in dialogues with “robots” that are trained to provide best-practice feedback and performance enhancement. For example, the Coaching SimBot® that presents a scenario where a new manager must have a very hard conversation with a direct report about a performance issue. Instead of reading a book or sitting in a classroom, learners can review the situation and then engage in an actual dialogue with the online robot employee. The conversation can take 3-5 minutes and at the end of it, the learner is evaluated on a best practice model of effective coaching. In addition, the SimBot provides written feedback on the strengths of the conversation, the weaknesses of the conversation, and recommendations for future enhancements back in the real world. And this scenario can be played out at the same time with thousands of managers developing their coaching skills by immersing themselves in the dialogue and learning-by-doing.
So, if the disruptive change is here, how should organizations, leaders, managers, and Talent Development professionals embrace this change? Based on research and dozens of conversations and observations over the past six months with our clients, I offer the following ideas:
Get to know it and understand it
The first step is to get to know AI and understand it. Invest an hour and conduct a Google search. Understand the language, the buzzwords, and the things that thought leaders in this space are sharing. Your first assignment is to research and understand the concept of Natural Language Processing as it related to AI.
Use it and explore it
The best way to get your arms around the disruption is to use it and explore it. Here is a link to a short video that demonstrates a SimBot in action. Take a look and if you want more, contact me and I’m happy to set up further opportunities for you to explore.
Identify the right applications
Once you have a foundational understanding of AI in training, start thinking about the right applications for your organization. Is it in Sales? For example, handling objections or delivering the right value proposition for a new product launch? Is it in Coaching and having hard conversations? Is it in Customer Service and training people to have great service calls? Creating a preliminary roadmap of ideas and applications make it more real and can energize you and your company.
Create a vision for the future
Once you’ve started to think about the right applications, start to think bigger! Start thinking about a vision for the future where AI-based learning tools are integrated into everything your company does including R&D, Sales, Manufacturing, Customer Service, and Financial Management.
The final and most important suggestion is to manage expectations. The world won’t change overnight and there is a tendency for people to over-react to extremes on both ends of change (loving it and hating it). If you believe in AI-based learning tools then you also must believe in managing the process and expectations. Be realistic, there will be ups and downs with the technology, but also be energetic and positive. It’s up to you to find that right balance for yourself and your organization.