Artificial Intelligence (AI) which was once upon a time largely implemented in video games and select complex advanced scientific and industrial applications, has now invaded the corporate world. It is befriended by different functions of the business as an aid for decision making, simulating scenarios and in gaining new knowledge and insights about various facets of business on a scale and magnitude never before experienced by organisations. Robots which were considered very complex to build and were mostly positioned in large manufacturing companies have become significantly more impactful powered by AI and are also able to socialise recognising human body and voice. Hence every business, small or large, is beginning to think of the impact AI could make in enhancing customer experience, innovating their products and offerings with the help of deep analytics, reducing costs and losses by avoiding potential pitfalls in taking smarter decisions. It is also time to consider the role AI could play in the talent development function and make learning and development of professionals more exciting and impactful.
The biggest value add AI could bring to corporate learning is better understanding of learners, their learning styles and their evolving learning needs. AI may replace trainers in some cases fully or partially and by following the learning patterns of the trainees, will empower the training managers to come up with customised and varied offerings. Often times, learners do not wish to be exposed of their weaknesses and therefore may be reluctant to learn. AI powered environment facilitates learning through trial and error methods and encourages the learners to experiment without fear or being intimidated.
AI systems could provide expertise and answer queries intelligently and through this process become smarter and more intelligent with every transaction thus slowly becoming a synergistic companion for the learner as well as the trainer whose role over a period of time will become that of a facilitator. AI systems could even take on the role of grading, evaluating the students and providing feedback from time to time. At times, the learning content and pedagogy may not be just right because of which learners struggle with their grades and the learning outcomes may not be satisfactory. AI systems enable large organisations to study these patterns to arrive at the exact course corrections that are required to be made to bridge such gaps and thus make learning purposeful. They bring together the vast amounts of data about individual learning, social contexts, learning contexts and personal interests and makes it possible to derive insights from interactions to make learning adaptive as well as contextual.
When knowledge is served up to the employees as required and contextualised, it becomes much more valuable than when it is static and has the same flavour at all times to everyone. Contextual support at the time of addressing a customer query or resolving a problem at customer site not only enables the executive to be productive and tap into the knowledge just in time, the organisation knowledge repository also constantly grows in this process and becomes more intelligent over a period of time.
The examples of Siri, Cortana, Deep Mind acquired by Google and driver less cars are well known, all of which highlight the potential of machine learning unleashed by AI systems applied in different ways. IBM’s Watson is a classic example of the deep commitment to ongoing learning—which has seen brilliant results in a variety of fields such as oncology, travel, law and finance. The device can perform text mining and complex analytics on huge volumes of unstructured data and serve up knowledge that we are seeking. OpenAI, the artificial intelligence company invested by Tesla founder Elon Musk is aiming to build a new model of free training “gym” for computer programmers. Known as OpenAI Gym, it’s an open source tool to get developers around the world to train computer systems in better ways to learn and develop more complex reasoning systems.
Training managers motivated by the potential of AI interventions in the talent development process could start by identifying a specific area where a pilot could commence. With the help of a relevant AI tool and ongoing analytics, it would be possible to assess the progress the learning programme makes. While the possibilities are exciting, there has to be a commitment from the top to accord importance for AI powered learning and continuous engagement with the view to making processes intelligent. Rules would have to be defined, domain expertise needs to be formulated and control structures require to be outlined in order to make the programme robust.
The measure of success in such an exercise is not just the short term outcome, but the impact it is capable of creating on an ongoing basis. In addition, the longer term intelligence that the tool acquires helps in coaching and providing expertise that surpasses the impact traditional training programmes and trainers can deliver.
The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company