Why Leaders Need Artificial Intelligence

3 minute read

John Stumpf was unceremoniously given the boot out of his job as the CEO of Wells Fargo likely because he was not aware of the problem that his bank employees opened fake accounts for customers.

It’s very natural for leaders of such a company to assume that the more accounts people opened with the bank the more money they would manage and the better the customers felt about the bank. However it was also this conceptual metric that drove employees to open fake accounts. One would logically assume that the power in any organization lies with the top executives and you wouldn’t be at fault for thinking so. Leaders make the major decisions and guide the direction of an organization base on the information the intelligence they receive. Let’s take a look at a typical organization. People at the lower levels of the organizations are the ones that do most of the work and as we trace up the organizational structure and focus shifts from doing work to managing that work.

Managing work is an important role it ensures that the work being done aligns with the company goals. Now as we trace even further managing gives way to leadership. Here even more important decisions are supposed and made. At these levels Those who are promoted to leadership roles can do the work. They can manage people and they can think strategically to make decisions which have broader implications.

The nature of the organization structure creates silos; as such when information flows up these silos there is a perception that the leader will be inundated with information and so the data provided to them should be dumbed down. Not only that as the information flows up the organization it has to be vetted by many stakeholders politically; nuanced so no manager or leader gets upset; then the information is generalized so that nuances are lost and finally sanitized to avoid any finger-pointing.

After the information undergoes all this processing, the information provided to leaders is essentially useless. I’m pretty sure that if a leader were say ask how many inches there are in a foot, the answer that comes back with words like tentative written all over it because employees are afraid to commit!

If leaders want to get around this problem one potential option is to change the culture but that’ll take a long time. Alternatively they could go where the information is instead of waiting to get it from their subordinates. This direct access will ensure that the leader gets the granularity desired. However the only problem with this approach is that the leader could potentially be overwhelmed with information leading to analysis paralysis or they get bounced around from pillar to post as employees again don’t want to commit! After a couple of experiences of fighting through the clutter they may give up.

A better idea is to leverage pattern recognition as the translator. The data is automatically collected and analyzed without any organizational biases (if done correctly) and presented to the leaders in an unfiltered form. Google search is a good example of how any user can type in a query and get the answers fast. Some organizations have already started working on automation and transparency but we have a long ways to go, so in the meantime the role of the business architect if structured correctly someone in this position can bring the detailed data all the way up to leadership.

The important thing for this role is to have independence much like auditors and not be biased or influenced by organizational politics. Today real decision-makers are those that control and manage the information so make sure your getting the right information, clean and unbiased lest you find yourself slowly cooked then lobstered!

Hope this helps…