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Are we ready for AI in workplace communications? We have to be – it’s our new change journey!

Adrian CropleyAdrian Cropley·

As I prepare to leave Melbourne for Bahrain and IABC EMENAComm where I am speaking on this topic, I started to think about how I will begin my presentation.

Is it, ‘Well here we are again!’, making a parallel connection between the advent of AI and the advent of social media a few years back?

Or do I take a positive or negative stance on a world that will be changed forever by AI? Something like, ‘The robots are coming, run for your life!’ I have worked in and led so many change initiatives in my career that I will probably take quite a reflective approach to the talk. In fact, it should be a conversation about change.

Let’s face it, when change hits us and it looks too much like hard work, it’s natural to try and escape or ignore it in the hope it will go away. As the buzz around AI gains momentum, communication professionals need to prepare for the evolution, as we learn to adapt to using AI in our work and advise our organizations on the impact on the various stakeholder groups.

The one thing I have learned over the years is, history repeats, the conversations we have now about AI are the same as the conversations we had about social media in the noughties, intranets in the nineties and mobile/cell phones in the eighties.

We have to treat 2019 as the year we ‘confront AI as another evolution’ and one that will spread us across the change spectrum from embracers to resistors. This time, however, wouldn’t it be nice to travel the road to exploration together as communication professionals?

Early adopters love to show they are smart and make those lagging behind feel they have lost pace or out of touch which, creates a bigger divide rather than moving us all along with confidence and an open learning mind. But imagine the power of communication professionals coming together to help each other learn, create understanding and actively build a new reality for our profession.

As communication professionals, we inherently believe that communication can assist in advancing or solving issues in organizations throughout the world. Communicating on the big issues such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality and the ethical use of data is challenging.

All communication professionals face this challenge no matter where they are in the world and in which industry. So how can we position ourselves and our profession to meet these challenges head-on?

How can we as strategic communication professionals embrace this new reality, use the tools we now have available and advise our organizations on the best way to communicate on these and the associated issues?

How can what we know contribute to building a stronger, better dialogue on AI issues and build capacity for ourselves and our organizations?

The Centre for Strategic Communication Excellence released the inaugural Communicating AI Global Report in late 2018, which explored AI communication, what communication professionals are doing now, and how they are preparing and adapting for the future.

As much as research participants identified that AI is here and has been for a while, only 35% are actively communicating and using AI tools in their function. I will share the findings of the report so we can reflect on what the data may mean for communication professionals. 

There is a need for us to help lead organizations through this new change, as well as advise on some of the ethical and moral issues around technological decision making, very similar to the social media journey.

To help our organizations we need to help each other. Immediately after EMENAComm the 2019 Communicating Artificial Intelligence research will begin, and the findings will form an AI playbook for communication professions to help map out the journey ahead.

AI will neither replace us or define us and I think we have an amazing opportunity to set our own course when It comes to AI and the role of the corporate communication function.

It is great to see Poppulo sponsoring the conference and I look forward to continuing the conversation in Bahrain and beyond. I’d love to hear your thoughts on who we prepare ourselves for this new change journey.

  • On February 14, 2019, Adrian Cropley, together with Jane Mitchell, FRSA, former IABC UK President, is running a one-day Leadership Skills Program in London. Readers can avail of the special IABC & Friends rate by simply referencing this Poppulo blog post.

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