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Home / Technology / News /  Executives in India say their workforce not ready for AI: Paul Daugherty

Paul Daugherty is Accenture’s chief technology and innovation officer. A member of Accenture’s Global Management Committee, he is responsible for driving innovation through R&D activities in Accenture Labs and also founded and oversees Accenture Ventures. In an interview, Daugherty, who co-authored Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, shared his thoughts on the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on jobs and companies, the idea of human-machine collaboration, and suggested concrete ways in which businesses can deal with these issues. Edited excerpts:

You say that with AI, we are now on the cusp of a major business transformation, and that the impact is being felt not only in manufacturing but across all sectors. Give us some examples.

First, AI is the fastest growing trend we’ve seen of all the technology trends today. Some of the examples of successful adoption of AI would be what we call “Intelligent Customer Engagement Interaction", which includes chatbots and virtual agents. They can watch the nature of the calls and how they are being handled and help improve the people that are handling the calls —that’s the classic “Human + Machine" example of the impact that you see with an AI.

Another example is that of Mercedes, and how they moved from highly industrialized robotics that were doing 80% of work in assembling the vehicles and realized that by moving to more flexible collaborative robots—by introducing more humans into the process—they are far more effective and efficient. Now, instead of 80% robots, it’s 80% human activity in assembling cars and we’ve since seen others like Tesla do the same.

But why is it that some companies experience AI stagnation while others achieve breakthroughs?

I think companies experience stagnation on AI for a few reasons. One can be the data and lack of access to it—where they don’t have the data in the right way to support AI programs.

The second issue is the right talent to develop AI.

The third is the wrong mindset that looks at AI just as a cost or efficiency play, and not a growth or new business opportunity play.

A good example on the growth side is a company like Stitch Fix, which is a business created around AI. It’s a really great example of creating better product for the customer, better value for the customer, and also creating a new workforce in the form of these AI-enabled designers.

As for AI stagnation, I think the area to watch there would be examples of companies that are looking at one-dimensional automation—just looking say at the back-office side and the cost side. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a great tool but our view is that you need to look at RPA + analytics + AI. It’s the combination that will give you value.

What kind of impact will AI have on human jobs? Are companies ready for the AI impact?

We believe 90% of jobs will change because of AI but only about 15% of jobs will go away, though that’s a lot of jobs.

From a survey we did, we found that in India, for example, 80% executives believe the workforce isn’t ready for AI. In the rest of the world, that’s 65%. But in India, hardly any company is investing in training the workforce. The rest of the world is no better—only 2%.

People appreciate the problem and understand that the workforce isn’t ready but they are not taking enough action to reskill their people. We believe that’s a big challenge, grand challenge of our generation.

In this context, please explain what you mean by “fusion skills" and the “missing middle"?

Fusion skills give companies and people a framework to think about acquiring new skills in their jobs.

The missing middle talks about combining the best of machine intelligence with the best of human intelligence in creating new types of jobs. For example, as you’re developing AI, you need to train your AI for this.

And this is done by sociologists, drama majors, or students of liberal arts who can understand the human experience, understand storytelling and personal engagement and help shape the use of AI to have the impact that your consumers want.

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