Frankie Tierney for November 2018

31st October 2018

Artificial Intelligence – scary Dalek or loyal dependable R2-D2



Apologies for the science fiction film references in the title – but I’ve assumed everyone has some knowledge of Dr Who and Star Wars!


Artificial Intelligence or “AI” is a topic that comes sharply into the media focus with each jump in technological advance.


For social connectivity and convenience the bits of kit in your pocket, your car and your home are generally in the R2-D2 camp. They make our life easier; provide instant information and an immediate connection with family and friends. We are starting to have some concerns about the social implications of instant gratification and virtual friendships, but then I remember when “experts” thought that the humble television would “rot the brains of a generation”.


The area of most unease however is when AI starts impinging on the work force. AI that can learn as it operates is definitely in the scary Dalek arena for many. Business owners are therefore going to have to anticipate and respond proactively to the perceived impact of AI on their work force.


There is a lot of benefit that AI can bring and whilst undoubtedly it will accelerate changes to the way people work and the skill sets to be taught in schools; it need not be quite the threat that may be imagined.


Adding AI into the mix can significantly reduce the more tedious of tasks and that gives your people the opportunity to do more of the stuff that will really help move your business and their careers forward.  In order to get staff buy in however it is important to recognize the concerns and address them well before you install the new bit of kit.


Identify the areas where staff will be released from the boring repetitive aspects and how you can add to their skills to make their role more varied and interesting but still very relevant to the business and its clients needs.


It is important to assimilate your workforce with the digital technologies that you want to introduce. Your people need to feel comfortable and confident with it but equally important is the need to generate excitement with an assurance they will be supported.


Lawyers will never be accused of being in the vanguard of new technology, but we at Herrington Carmichael are learning to utilise AI in a manner that benefits clients and staff.  Technology that can read and compare documents, spot typos and other drafting errors in a fraction of the time it would take for a human, means that junior staff can be     up-skilled to do other tasks that benefit that business and allow a speedier response to Clients. Speech recognition dictation systems means that legal secretaries vastly reduce the time spent on the mundane task of typing.  The time they get back can be better utilised in the areas where a real person is needed to give Clients the experience and professional relationship they value.


Instead of the idea of a person in competition with a machine you need to encourage the view point that this is a case of a person plus a machine producing more than the sum of their parts.


Machines are good at making sense of enormous quantities of data, of learning, processing and making logical choices based on the statistical data.  What they cannot do and what good human staff will always be able to do – is the utilisation of empathy, real life experiences and a genuine connection with your customers.


Humans prefer a measure of emotional contact. Of course some issues are going to be more effectively achieved by something that is better suited to a process orientated task. But customer decisions to work with your business are not solely based on a cold hard rational decision. It is often more rooted in emotional needs such as trust and the desire to have a functioning proper business relationship.


AI is not going away but if its use is positively introduced and businesses actively invest in identifying and communicating to their people how they intend to help them shift their skill sets and job roles so that the AI compliments their careers; you can retain those good people and help them embrace new challenges and opportunities to grow with your business.


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