People often think of innovation as something coming through a radical change. It is more a matter of continuous improvement. The word “innovation” itself is derived from the Latin verb “Innovare”, which means to renew. Providing fertile ground for continuous innovation is paramount to the long-term success of any organisation. Unfortunately, we often see organisations fall short of unlocking the full creative potential of their workforce due to significant innovation inhibitors.
Innovation inhibitors and workplace stressors partially overlap. On one end, workplace stressors have much wider ranging effects on the organisation and employee culture. On the other end, workplace stressors are only one of the innovation inhibitors, of which the list is much longer.
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More than a few observers take the view that AI will deprive workers of employment and constitutes a threat to them. However, new information technologies such as AI might affect not only employment and wages but also the way workers approach their work and could influence aspects of their well-being, such as job satisfaction, workplace stress, and health, in a variety of ways.
To avoid business disruption, organisations are rapidly turning towards automation as a safer (and more financially attractive) solution compared to the human workforce. In fact, according to a recent report from the World Economic Forum, the next wave of automation will disrupt 85m jobs worldwide by 2025.
So, managing innovation inhibitors is about finding a balance and building an environment where innovation can come most effortlessly and naturally. And equally important: remain sustainably and constructively present while continuously developing throughout the lifetime of the organisation.
In 2016, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) published a report titled Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems. The report explored the lack of awareness and ownership of socioeconomic concerns surrounding automation. It urged stakeholders involved in developing autonomous systems and AI to go beyond the search for more computational power. It pleaded for human wellbeing, empowerment and prosperity to be placed at the core of automation pursuits.
A paper on Socially Responsible Automation (SRA), defines it as “the technology choices, business strategies, innovation approaches and management practices that move the affordances of automation beyond cost and performance.”
While we can say that less stress means more room for creativity, if not balanced correctly, it can also veer off towards a lazy innovation culture. We have seen plenty of examples of this. It is enough to think about Nokia or Blackberry to be reminded.
Social responsibility and business ethics are often used interchangeably. However, social responsibility is only a part of the overall discipline of business ethics.