Becoming One Of Tomorrow’s Unicorns In The World Of Artificial Intelligence


Article previously featured at Forbes.

Everyone is buzzing about the impact of AI on work, and many leaders feel insecure about what it will mean in terms of their own career development and roles. Deep learning, machine learning, automation and robotics are creating a seismic shift across organizations. “We’re now living in an age where [deep learning is] going to be mandatory for people building sophisticated software applications,” according to Frank Chen, a partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, who was quoted in a recent Fortune article. Soon, he notes, people will demand, “’Where’s your natural-language processing version?’ ‘How do I talk to your app? Because I don’t want to have to click through menus.’”

In the same article, Andrew Ng, chief scientist at Baidu Research is quoted, saying, “AI is the new electricity. Just as 100 years ago electricity transformed industry after industry, AI will now do the same.” Every facet of how we work will be transformed by the emerging technologies. The full force of these technologies will probably not be felt for some time. People need to adapt as automation and robotics are integrated into the workplace, while machine learning impacts how we gather and apply data.

Adapting means leaders and employees need to hone their creative abilities, as well as leadership and strategic thinking skills, to develop innovative organizations that incorporate the impact of these emerging technologies.

Deep machine learning, or AI, will radically alter the nature of work and needed skills over the next five to 10 years. The impact will require leadership that is agile, adaptable and able to problem solve in a collaborative fashion. Senior management will need to constantly assimilate new information while really listening to the experts surrounding them. In the emerging world of work, change is the only constant.

According to the World Economic Forum, there are 10 skills everyone needs to develop by 2020 to be able to thrive. Let’s put this into context; it’s important for people, whether or not they regard themselves as leaders, to evolve and develop during the “fourth industrial revolution” — a term coined by the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2016 — so they can be relevant or even be tomorrow’s sexy unicorns.

Usually, a unicorn is a unique piece of technology, a leader, or a $1 billion company. Tomorrow’s unicorns will combine these as hard-to-find technical skill leaders. To achieve that status, today’s workers need to fine-tune the following attributes.

Develop An Adaptive Mindset

Change, especially in a world of constant change, is stressful. Instead of hitting burnout alley, we need to adapt our mindsets to manage first-time situations, prototyping, frequent feedback and continual realignment. Leaders need to manage change as well as innovate the workplace, systems and how work gets done. The big four tech companies —Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon — demonstrate that kind of leadership with systems of thinking that are unique to their cultures. But with Dinosaur Unicorns and underdogs, everyone is hiring or adapting, trying to survive, be acquired or remain relevant for potential growth.

According to Brian Rashid, author of It’s Your Hour, millennials have had their brains so far into technology and social media that they need to develop their communication skills. I would also reach so far as to suggest their emotional intelligence needs work to thrive in an AI environment. Communication skills and emotional intelligence are critical in the AI stack so the most important questions can be asked. Without human intervention, driving questions, strategy and execution, AI cannot work intelligently.

Always Link And Adapt Your Vision

Your creative and BHAG vision is critical. Spending time developing and adjusting the vision of your product, department or deliverable is key. You need to be able to see where you’re going, executing two steps ahead with the data provided and all the conflicting pieces constantly changing. Leadership in today’s environment requires seeing what doesn’t exist yet in a world changing faster than in any other generation, thanks to tech and educational advancements. Senior leaders are essentially the chief product and technology architects across departments. Having a single shared vision guides decision making and helps to create a plan in which everyone is working toward the same goal. Getting buy-in on vision is crucial at any level of the organization; otherwise, no one will be able to help you execute it.

Embrace Diversity, Culture And Engagement

It’s not just about being an AI or digital guru; you’ve also got to be a mentor, coach and leader. Exhausted yet? As technology advances, so too does the ability to work in a global capacity across cultures creating a truly open world. Leaders are increasingly being asked to coach and mentor as much as they are leading — even if they’re individual contributors. This requires engagement and a holy trinity of data skills, human skills and strategic skills to engage diverse backgrounds, personality types and skill levels.

Be An Agile Learner, Or…

Leaders must both anticipate and create change. This means an agile learner is critical both for effective leaderships and for implementing such a mindset across an organization. Today’s companies need to immediately review they ways they operate and adapt. Change requires speed, flexibility, collaboration, rapid prototyping, constant feedback and evaluation. The ability to master these skills within yourself, as well as fostering it among departments, is needed now. Today’s style is a constant dialogue of what is working and what is not working followed by making the necessary shifts and tweaks to the system.

Since 2017 is the year of the AI, today’s unicorns are in a unique position to really innovate and pioneer not only new technologies but also organizational structures. Those who embrace AI, leadership, EQ, vision, adaptability and change will survive and thrive in our shiny new tech world.