Deloitte, Knowledge Management, Artificial Intelligence and the end of human advantage!
I’m back and mad as hell! I’ve purposely backed off the Knowledge Management debate for quite a while, but today I’ve been prodded and this bear is ready to roar.
Deloitte posted a picture of “50 brilliant people validating and updating the strategy of Deloitte KM” – all very nice. So, seeing as they were publicising/celebrating their contribution to KM, I challenged them to change the vector for KM (direction, speed and energy).
Their response demonstrated old wine in new bottles, a love of buzzwords and, frankly contempt for the potential for unintended consequences and the future of human advantage in the workplace.
From Deloitte’s KM Co-founder:
KM, as we see it, is a blanket term that encompasses more specific terms like AI based search engines and bots, robotics embedded knowledge repositories, social collaboration, mobile, digital workplace and others. Companies want its people to quickly get proficient and productive in new practice areas, whether they are new hires or existing staff moving into new practice disciplines. But classic training methods won’t work neither as a stand alone digital learning solution. The amount of knowledge is too large and is dynamically and rapidly changing. Our goal is to leverage the advanced digital workplace and AI capabilities in order to get the right knowledge to the right employee when needed.
The right knowledge to the right employee, when needed – think about that for a minute. Beyond traditional, antiquated (Lean) KM thinking, I would like you to consider the implications associated with AI governed KM practice; a place where knowledge can be externalised, stored and transported on demand.
The assumption seems to be that Artificial Intelligence will “know” what the “right” knowledge is and can predetermine the outcome of our interaction with the knowledge object it (AI) presents to us. If that is the case, why can AI not make the links and also create the solution? In such an environment, how do we achieve human-led innovation or invention – the notion, in the case of innovation, seemingly being that AI can see the gap and suggest the knowledge required to plug the gap (Hey presto, innovation!), in which case why do we need people in the first place?
Deloitte speaks about human proficiency, which I would argue is outmoded. Proficiency is assessed against benchmarks for quality. However, in the face of accelerating returns, we have to ask how people will outperform technology – in other words, how will we develop and enable the depth, completeness and security of human knowledge, alongside competence (what you know – technical knowledge), competency (ability knowledge – how you do things) and capability (taking what you know and how you do things to be applied in non-routine circumstances)? How will humans compete in a world where they will be asked more-and-more to collaborate with technology? Where is the human captured in Deloitte’s version/vision for KM?
Deloitte seems to be saying that the world is linear and can be constrained in the name of proficiency. This is a mistake of traditional management thinking and is, frankly, disappointing when being communicated by an organisation such as Deloitte.
AI-driven KM suggests a deterministic view of the world, one constrained by those who create the algorithms that serve to ‘control’ people and their agency in the name of pro(e)fficiency. People are an inconvenience in such a constrained view of KM, one where the focus is on engineering the human and our propensity for discovery through error out of the process. To not anticipate the consequences of such actions is short-termist, irresponsible thinking that betrays the need to develop longterm human advantage to outperform technology – a view cemented by the response to my commentary by the co-founder of Deloitte’s KM programme:
I’ll be happy to meet and show you the great ROI we have in our KM projects next time i’m in the U.K.
ROI. Really? Are Deloitte really that much of a dinosaur? Are they so blinkered by the here-and-now that they are willing to sacrifice people on the altar of ROI? People are the solution, not the problem. You don’t need to engineer people out of the system, you need to develop people to outperform the system – surely, if you are interested in resilience and adaptability, you have to be interested in people!
In Deloitte’s vision for the world, how will humans outperform technology? For me, such thinking demonstrates a failure to anticipate the consequence of the adoption of AI/Robotics. Furthermore, such a position demonstrates how people and their competitive advantage are being constrained by those motivated by traditional management thinking in a world where management will soon be a robot or an algorithm. Sorry to say, but the consequences for society could be catastrophic.