When the first board member is replaced by Artificial Intelligence

I asked some friends how soon they expected to see Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) replacing a person on the board of directors, and which function was most threatened.

A.I. can make better complex decisions than people. Nevertheless, they felt that A.I. would not replace a board role, but it could easily imagine it taking an additional seat on the board.

Able to access many more streams of intelligence and to evaluate opportunities and risks much more comprehensively and faster than a human, A.I. could usefully provide relevant information to the board, or could act as a check and balance against rash decisions.

What A.I. lacks, they agreed, is creativity and intuition.

So I was pleased when I listened to Steven van Belleghem’s talk at the Selligent Customer First Summit. Here he laid out a well-considered model for the relationship between humans and A.I. / digital in the future in his talk entitled “When digital becomes human”.

Although he focused on the customer experience, he might have been talking for all aspects of business.

Steven talked about the capability for A.I. to perform better in the area of Operational Excellence: making rational decisions and processes better. This will drive improvements to the customer experience, which in turn will increase the pressure on organisations to keep up with the ever-rising customer expectations. The result is that ever more of the interface between customer and brand will be driven by A.I., forcing humans into a shrinking role. But, he explains, digital and A.I. are unlikely to provide long-term differentiation by themselves.

Humans add value in their ability to provide a stronger emotional connection by responding empathetically, creatively and with passion. Thinking outside the box will continue to help differentiate brands, and will ensure that humans still have an important role in customer experience in the future.

Where I think my friends’ thoughts can add value to Steven’s model is in their final defence of humans at the top of organisations: a human can be held responsible in a way AI cannot.

That will always also apply in customer experience. We all feel reassured when a human takes personal responsibility to support us. This will never be replaced by A.I.

Steven van Belleghem is right to say that AI will provide more of the support and processes for future customer experience, and that humans will take a smaller, but equally valuable role. But critically, it is our human ability to take responsibility, and how they deal with that, that will ensure that people have a role in differentiating the brand.

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