Disruptive Leadership

By Øyvind Bakken Daniel Müller

Tackling Disruptive Technologies from a Leadership Perspective

In the past decades, disruptive technologies have been emerging all around us. They can be explained as an innovation that significantly changes the way individuals, organisations or industries function. Typically, a disruptive technology supersedes an older process, product, or habit because its features have significantly overridden its predecessor. Back in the days, television, automobiles and electricity services were considered disruptive technologies. However, now one looks at these technologies with completely different mindsets and perceives Artificial Intelligence (AI) as one of the main disruptive technologies out there today. From a business perspective, the rapid growth of AI is widely seen as both an opportunity and a threat, partly because many companies have failed to take advantage of disruptive technologies in their executive leadership teams in the past. One question in particular arises: how should leaders pick up and grasp the development of this (disruptive) technology and benefit from it on the executive floor?

An opportunity

Initially, implementing Artificial Intelligence in your organisational strategies and governance might seem like a challenging task. During this transition, it is crucial for executives to make agile decisions whilst communicating transparently with the rest of the organisation. AI is or can be implemented in organisations to make existing business activities more successful and competitive. According to the AI Business School, a globally leading education provider operating out of Switzerland, this implementation can be achieved through a simple three-phase model to ensure smoothness and effectiveness.

  1. Start small: initiate first steps, carefully selected pilots and proofs of concept (PoC’s)
  2. Spark enthusiasm: ensure real motivation for AI across the entire organisation
  3. Scale up fast: expand AI activities quickly and consistently to create substantial business value

Enthusiasm of an organisation’s Leadership Team + enthusiasm of Employees = accomplishment of AI. This rule of thumb should be used continuously throughout the application of AI across the organisation.

COVID-19 has enabled numerous organisations to focus on (much) higher levels of digitalisation within the company. This has led to a big part of the population working off-site and thus to work from anywhere they desire. Since it matters less where employees are working from, it has allowed organisations to employ a more diverse workforce. A diverse way of thinking is crucial in today’s business world since it drives a global and more open-minded way of thinking. Humans are inclined to bias, whether this is intentional or unintentional. It is important for organisations to block these intentions and make objective decisions when it comes to hiring, firing, promoting, and developing (new) employees. Using Artificial Intelligence to counter this bias is a perfect opportunity for organisations to allow unique and creative ideas that rise from a diversity of thought.

A challenge

With disruptive technologies come fears. Will my position still be necessary for the growth of the organisation? Am I a valuable asset to my company? Will we keep our clients if we (don’t) implement AI in our business strategy? It is crucial for leaders to acknowledge these uncertainties and be open and transparent about your next steps. According to the AI Business School all (technically and non-technically skilled) employees and executives need continuous and comprehensive AI education to help understand, gain confidence, and make the right decisions. By realising an AI literate workforce, employees will feel more included and enthusiastic about the future of your organisation. By doing so, it conveys an empowering message to your employees: you are important to us and we want you to develop with us and be part of the joint AI journey.

As underlined by international thought leaders who are members of the faculty of the Swiss AI Business School, the existing workforce is the biggest asset to your organisation, and therefore, it is easier and more economical to educate existing talents. However, it is also important to hire external experts in AI. This can be achieved by hiring freelancers or entire AI teams, permanent AI talents, and/or partnering with AI product and service providers.

The future of leadership holds several new challenges as foreseen by the Swiss AI experts: the automation of management decisions, the management of hybrid teams (collaborations of machines and humans), and the changing roles of leadership functions.

Many company strategies put the focus on innovation and disruption. In reality, they are far from disruptive. Why? The answer to that question is in many cases related to culture and leadership. If a group of top management is not willing to embrace new ideas and take advantage of new technologies such as AI, can the same group accept their managers doing it? Can you as a CEO be the driver of innovation and culture of disruption and still meet your shareholders expectations?

From Mercuri Urval’s point of view, yes! If Top Management is willing to listen to disruptive ideas and encourage the organization to be innovative, then magic will happen. This magic often occurs without the same financial and human resources as one can find in bigger companies. There is a certain DNA in those companies, combined with a culture where the outcomes are a result of every employee in the organization, pulling in the same direction.


Join our Webinar

Are you interested in hearing more about what experts in the field of AI and disruptive leadership have to say about the tackling of disruptive technologies on the executive floor? Join our webinar on June 16th. We are looking forward to seeing you then!