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  • Writer's pictureAaron Zaslofsky

Artificial Intelligence and the future of communications and change

Megan Beck and Barry Libert are giving Nostradamus a run for his money. They tell the future of communications and change management in the form of a prescient piece published in Harvard Business Review titled “The Rise of AI Makes Emotional Intelligence More Important.” The authors assert that “as Artificial Intelligence (AI) improves, which is happening quickly, a much broader set of ‘thinking’ rather than ‘doing’ jobs will be affected. We’re talking about jobs that, until the last few years, we couldn’t imagine being done without the participation of an actual, trained human being.” Uncertainty surrounds occupations like doctor, PR practitioner, internal communications consultant, change manager, financial advisor, and more.

As AI gains prominence, costs and complexity are coming down. Look no further than our journalism colleagues, some of whom have already been displaced by systems that produce sports commentaries, financial reports, and other event-driven stories. If AI actually had to submit applications for jobs, the posting might read, “human need not apply.”

Beck and Libert say it best when they state, “it’s scary to consider the social and personal implications — and particularly the implications for our careers. As machine learning continues to grow, we all need to develop new skills in order to differentiate ourselves. But which ones?”

For communications and change professionals, skills like persuasion, building consensus, social understanding, and empathy will be the difference between our abilities and those of machines. More specifically, we humans are (fortunately) better suited to advise organizations and leaders in areas like:

  • The role of communication in leadership (aka creating shared meaning)

  • Articulating culture, vision, and strategy

  • Developing narratives to convey the big picture

  • Building social capital through the stakeholder engagement process

These are the advanced skills serving highly effective strategic communications and change professionals right now. These same skills will prove less vulnerable to AI incursion in the future. And as technology and automation change our jobs, emotional intelligence – and the strategic counsel that stems from it – may prove the difference between those employed and those reduced to lesser roles.

We know that AI already reigns supreme when it comes to diagnosing complex business problems and making sense of data. That said, AI currently lacks the ability to use relationships to motivate teams, lead large-scale change, and avoid political hot potatoes. All this ultimately boils down to orchestrating outcomes, on which communications and change professionals hang their hats.

Employees at all levels must educate themselves now on the emotional skills that will differentiate them from other professionals and automated systems of the future. If there’s a silver lining – and there is – it’s that applying nuanced emotional understanding will serve strategic communications and change professionals just as well in the present.

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