Forbes: Leverage experience and life-long learning in the era of AI

Forbes: Leverage experience and life-long learning in the era of AI

Image courtesy of Getty.

Irma Becerra is president of Marymount University, a comprehensive doctoral-granting university known for its innovative curriculum.

My interest in AI dates back to my early academic career years, back in the late 1990s, because of the direct connection with my field of research, knowledge management (KM). KM concerns itself with the discipline that promotes the discovery, capture, sharing and application of the enterprise’s knowledge. AI technologies are related to knowledge discovery, and they enable knowledge creation by finding and interpreting patterns from data.

Although intelligent technologies have made significant contributions to science for years, the proliferation of e-commerce and reams of big data, coupled with cloud computing and significant computing power, have laid the groundwork for AI and all we can expect it to achieve. Many expect AI to revolutionize industries, help tackle complex global challenges and empower humanity with unprecedented advancements in efficiency, innovation and overall well-being.

Intelligent technologies are generally seen as cognitive support tools for experts. AI promises to inform experts, help them make strategic decisions, identify patterns and accurately forecast trends, which marks a significant leap forward. But among all the talk about AI, what can AI do and not do well?

What AI Can Do Well and Can’t Do Well

AI systems process vast amounts of data at speeds beyond human capacity and provide actionable insights and predictive analytics. Still, even as AI continues to drive innovation to new heights, it’s crucial to understand that humans are the true architects of groundbreaking ideas. AI excels at refining existing concepts, but the initial spark of creativity, the ability to understand and state the particular problem to be studied, comes from experts who understand the domain.

As we welcome the collaboration between AI and human ingenuity, let’s remember how critical our expertise is for ongoing progress. While most organizations aim to become entirely data-driven, as a leader, I have seen thousands of challenging instances in which human expertise has saved the day.

The way forward is to use it to augment original ideas. In a time of transformation, we must not shy away from taking intellectual risks or continuing to contribute bold ideas based on our hard-earned expertise.

Understanding AI’s Strengths and Limitations

AI offers spectacular benefits, particularly in data-driven decision-making. Its systems can process vast amounts of data at speeds that are impossible for humans to provide actionable insights and predictive analytics. This capability empowers leaders to identify patterns and forecast trends with previously unattainable accuracy. They offer a reprieve from routine responsibilities, allowing us to focus on more strategic, creative and interpersonal aspects of leadership.

Still, at a time of unprecedented innovation, it’s crucial to recognize that, while formidable, AI has intrinsic limitations. Its use raises serious ethical and security considerations and requires us to navigate uncertainties and adaptability issues in rapidly changing environments. Another issue with AI is that while it excels at processing data and offering insights, its decision-making lacks the depth and contextual understanding human leaders bring.

Human visionary thinking, deeply connected to meaning and purpose, is one thing AI has yet to replicate. This uniquely human attribute shines brightest in moments of ambiguity, offering a crucial advantage in strategic decision-making.

Recognizing the gaps in AI’s contextual understanding and decision-making capabilities emphasizes the ongoing importance of human skills. Today, leaders face many urgent demands. We must continually adapt, learn and contribute unique insights to address a changing world.

The Imperative of Lifelong Learning

The need for lifelong learning has never been more crucial, especially given AI tools’ potential to increase productivity. We must overcome obstacles and make mistakes along the way, and shortcuts only rob us of precious learning opportunities. For example, many in academic circles worry about students using AI to research topics or craft school papers.

Committing to ongoing learning makes us valuable sources of expertise and insights. Lifelong learning is a strategic asset in navigating challenges. As industries face disruptions and uncertainties, those who embrace continuous learning can better confront and overcome obstacles. With technology rapidly integrating various aspects of work, lifelong learning is essential for maintaining technological fluency. There are a number of ways to pursue continuous learning, including:

  • Attending industry conferences.
  • Joining professional organizations or councils.
  • Joining a non-profit or corporate board.
  • Following thought leaders who publish on Forbes, LinkedIn and other publications or platforms.
  • Up-skilling by earning a certificate or graduate degree.

Lifelong learners are often at the forefront of innovation. The process of continual learning develops a growth mindset of curiosity and exploration. If you actively seek new ideas and perspectives, you are more likely to identify innovative solutions and drive progress.

Using Expertise as a Strategic Advantage

I don’t think AI will replace experts, but organizational leaders will need to consider how they will continue to provide their employees with opportunities for upskilling. As a new engineer, I had researched disaster readiness and completed a series of FEMA courses for hurricane preparedness. Decades later, I relied heavily on my expertise in disaster readiness to successfully implement our university shutdown during the global pandemic. Navigating uncertainty, a constant in business today, is another area where expertise proves invaluable. While AI systems may struggle in ambiguous and rapidly changing situations, thought leaders will continue to bring intuition, judgment and experience to the table.

Expertise accumulates over time as you continuously learn and gain hands-on experience. It builds a reservoir of valuable knowledge and offers a dependable foundation for informed decision-making and problem-solving.

Considerations for Leadership in the Era of AI

While AI excels in processing data and offering insights, it requires the interpretative capability of human leaders to translate this information into knowledge and coherent strategies. The ability to set a clear course, define achievable goals and align resources is crucial for leadership success.

Experts will need to continue to seek and use AI tools to optimize their outcomes. I believe the potential for extraordinary leadership will unfold in the synergy between cutting-edge technology and human ingenuity. Technology, in the hands of expert leaders intent on growth and progress, will undoubtedly serve our world well.