Does AI make work more human?
The rise of ‘Superteams’ at the workplace

By Yun-Han Lee

Business and Economics alum Yun-Han Lee (BCom 2006) is a Director in Human Capital – Organisation Transformation at Deloitte, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In this article, he shares his thoughts on rethinking diversity to create teams that harness the best of both worlds: human nature and artificial intelligence.

I remember watching this YouTube video and feeling a sense of utter bewilderment and amazement. The video showcased Google’s Duplex artificial intelligence (AI) assistant ringing up salons and restaurants to book appointments, interacting flawlessly with the human on the other end of the line.

That was three years ago, in 2018. I experience that same amazement watching that video today.

What strikes me most is that AI no longer remains in the realm of science fiction; the technology has evolved to such an extent that it has become mainstream.

Despite that, the debate as to whether AI will result in a net increase or decrease of jobs still rages on today. I am of the view that this argument is moot. Bertrand Russell said in his Nobel Prize speech in 1950, “all human activity is prompted by desire”.

Yun-Han Lee
Yun-Han Lee

As there is virtually no limit to human desire, there will be new jobs created in the future that would be unfathomable to us today, just as someone in the 1950s could never have imagined that streaming on Twitch could earn one a decent living in the 21st century!

The 2020 Deloitte Human Capital Trends* echoes this sentiment, where 60% of respondents said that their organisation was using AI to assist rather than to replace workers. Furthermore, the majority of respondents believed that the number of jobs would either stay the same or increase because of implementing AI.

However, the same study showed that there are gaps in how organisations are using AI to assist and augment their workforce. More than half of the organisations in the study use AI mainly to help improve consistency and quality. Only 16% of respondents say that their organisations use AI primarily to assist workers in developing insights.

I am a firm believer in the value of diversity in society, organisations, and teams. As Scott E. Page – author of the book The Diversity Bonus – said, “Progress depends as much on our collective differences as it does on our individual IQ scores.”

The idea of ‘superteams’, where humans and intelligent machines combine their complementary capabilities to solve problems and create value, takes diversity even further. It fundamentally reinvents the work that is done and brings forth more value to society, organisations, and teams.

However, many organisations today struggle to harness the value of diversity in their human teams, and it would be an even bigger stretch to start thinking about AI as a meaningful member of the team.

Creating an environment where superteams can thrive requires bold shifts in thinking, rather than incremental improvements from today. Business leaders will need to shift their mindset from merely optimising work to fundamentally reimagining the work itself. This requires taking a much broader view of the customer experience, employee experience, and the environment in which the organisation operates.

For example, some organisations are using Textio – an AI-augmented writing platform – collaboratively within teams to reimagine talent acquisition. These organisations have found that the collaborative process of writing job descriptions often result in ambiguous language that loses the original intent of the role and introduces organisational biases and norms. By arming talent and business teams with Textio, which suggests new language and highlights biased or gendered language, they were able to improve both job descriptions and hiring outcomes. After adopting Textio, Procter & Gamble saw a 30% increase in the number of qualified applicants, and NVIDIA found that job descriptions with a Textio score of 90 or higher had 28% more women apply and were 50% faster to fill.

I believe that superteams that truly integrate humans with AI in work that is reimagined hold the key to boosting organisation competitiveness and human productivity beyond what traditional methods are capable of today. While this journey may be incredibly challenging for most, the rewards that come with more humanised work will be well worth the challenge.

I certainly am looking forward to having my own AI personal assistant reserve a table for dinner at my favourite restaurant!

*The 2020 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report is an annual report published by Deloitte, which has been conducting and compiling global research and regional analysis into human capital trends since 2011. It is a body of work that represents some of the longest-running and most comprehensive study of HR, talent, and related technology topics ever conducted.