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Leading in Times of Uncertainty

Where AI and the real intelligence of your team intersect



Friday 29 March 2019

 

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Changing government rules and regulations. Global economic shifts. Increasingly extreme weather cycles. Just when you find your footing, another ‘new normal’ avalanche buries your hard work to stabilize business practices. If it’s not raw-materials sourcing challenges, labor issues take the fore. The bad news? It’s always going to be something. The good? You can develop your team to roll with the changes.

Some companies are seeking to mitigate uncertainty with Artificial Intelligence (AI). While the potential of AI has gotten a lot of press in recent years, so have its failures. Sometimes it is the humans who create the bugs in artificial learning. And sometimes humans simply process data, intentions and emotions more complexly and even more quickly than algorithms do. With or without AI, humans are a necessary part of the equation. My proposition: it is at the intersection of evolving tools such as AI and the real intelligence of your team where success lies in terms of leading in times of uncertainty.

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Join Karen Cates on Kellogg Executive Education’s Executive Development Program to lead with confidence in a middle or senior management role

Dates:  10-28 June; and 7-25 October, 2019

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If you don’t know the exact path to get you from here to there, you need to hire or develop expertise to make decisions along the way. This is the stuff of adventure when hiking in the back country or sailing across an ocean. Why is it, then, that sometimes we fall into impotent routine when faced with uncertainty in the workplace? Why don’t we create the same sense of adventure, the same reliance on expert navigating to drive business forward?

The core competency for arriving at your goal intact is being able to make decisions, shift gears or change course in the moment. Below are a few tips to help build this competency in your team:

1. Set expectations in terms of outcomes. In times of uncertainty, teams need to not only understand the goal, but have the flexibility in terms of how they get there. This fosters creativity and innovation and also makes them nimble if they need or want to change course in the middle of a project. Guidance as to organizational values should create some boundaries so that the approach to work is consistent with your company culture.

2. Train the team.Decision-making is fraught with biases and assumptions about what kind of information does and does not matter. Best practices in team decision-making processes are well-researched. Train your team to practice them to optimize their results.

3. Share data and the tools to analyze it.As with AI, team performance is only as good as the data available. Are you sharing all the relevant metrics? Does your team have — or have access to — dynamic modeling expertise? Data analytics tools? In order for teams to make good decisions, they need access to details around the factors that influence the scenario. Withholding even one factor can doom a team to suboptimal outcomes. Garbage in, garbage out. Leadership sabotages good process when it fails to fully equip the team with the information and the tools they need to reach desired outcomes.

By shifting your approach to uncertainty from a containment model to an adventure-seeking one, by training your team to navigate squalls, by providing them with the tools and data they need to shift direction when necessary, you unleash their power not only to survive, but to flourish. You develop their critical thinking skills. They learn confidence that they can handle whatever is thrown their way. Which is good, because the next big thing is just around the corner.

This article was originally published by Kellogg Executive Education, March 2019.

 


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