Key Takeaways:

  • Since the Industrial Revolution we have worried about machines replacing people in various occupations. The C-suite has felt fairly immune.
  • With new technologies emerging daily, many argue tech and automation could allow the C-suite to be more effective than ever.
  • It takes courage to do what has not been done before —but technology is there to help us accomplish anything.

It’s really true that there’s nothing new under the sun. A case in point is our cyclical angst about the impact of technology on jobs. Since the Industrial Revolution we have worried about machines replacing people in various occupations.

For most of that time, the C-suite has felt fairly immune from the effects of automation. After all, some business challenges require an “executive mind” that’s able to solve problems that arise with a comprehensive knowledge of their impact on the larger organization. Executives apply skills and practices learned through years of education and experience, mix them with common sense, and determine the best way forward. Machines can’t do that.

Can They?

The consensus seems to be shifting on that question, and I for one have no problem with that. Especially considering the number of industries that are moving toward a flatter organizational structure, the nature of executive work is changing. At the same time, the technology available to us is becoming more and more intuitive and flexible. Some make the case that technology will allow the denizens of the C-suite to do their jobs more effectively than ever.

A fascinating piece on the FastCompany blog lays out three specific areas where things like advanced “smart” technology and artificial intelligence have the potential to outshine the executive.

Tweet: Will AI outshine the executive? #StreetSchultz via @JonSchultz_Onyx
     “Will AI outshine the executive? ”    —

#1. Strategic planning

I won’t argue that experience be a valuable asset when it comes to predicting future needs and actions. Our knowledge of what can and has happened in our business experience is one tool to use in strategic planning.

On the other hand, it’s also true that long experience can have the effect of actually narrowing our viewpoint. We can tend to become very specialized, to the point that we may be an expert on our specific area in our specific company, but lack a balanced picture of larger trends and industry practice.

The “vision thing” is something that artificial intelligence is already involved with. The whole field of predictive analytics pulls together disparate data and constructs models of likely future conditions. This could be a powerful tool for strategic planning that allows for a broader view.

#2. Steering profitability

Research shows that most executives are not as skillful at financial decision-making as they think they are. People tend to act irrationally where money is concerned, letting personal biases and emotions interfere with decision-making. Using the cold, hard algorithm to weigh risk against potential profits removes a weak spot that exists whether we want to admit it or not.

#3. Best hiring practices

Surely one area in which a human is preferable to a machine is in choosing new hires, right? After all, only a human can look a person in the eye, notice their handshake, and size them up based on their manner and body language.  It is true that these details are good indicators of personality and how well a prospective employee might fit into the organization.

In actuality, it appears that human executives aren’t particularly good at picking up on these details consistently, according to FastCompany. Moreover, all people harbor unconscious biases that influence their hiring choices. That’s why workforce diversity issues are often unsuccessful. No such problem with automated hiring processes.

Be Progressive or Die

We all must understand the old adage “be progressive or die.” When I said that for the first time in my real estate career, it proved to be so much more true than it ever was. If you’re not on top of automating and the technology that will enable your company to deliver what consumers/partners/investors/clients are expecting —you’re really not doing your job.

Tweet: When automation comes to the C-Suite: be progressive or die. #StreetSchultz via @JonSchultz_Onyx
     “When automation comes to the C-Suite: be progressive or die.”    —

It’s easy to say: “It’s hard to turn a large ship in a different direction at the speed of a smaller company” but if you don’t, that smaller company will end up being not only more profitable, but they’ll stick around longer than you.

It takes courage to do what no one else has done before —but finally the tools that are out there will allow you to accomplish that, even if you’re fearful.  

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