Tag Archives: tony boobier

The Future of AI and Work Life

The future of AI as a threat to our jobs is a popular topic. Here is a book to help you respond.

Unlike so much that is written on this topic, Tony Boobier‘s latest book focuses on a positive response. It also investigates the implications of AI at a deeper level than most analysis.

While many books have been written that focus on explaining AI, or focusing on the technology, this book focuses on jobs. Tony includes extensive research and careful analysis. He takes us through most sectors, to understand opportunities and threats.

Let me explain why Tony’s book, “Advanced Analytics & AI“ is worth reading, both for your role now and as future career advice.

Never mind understanding AI; do you understand work?

Tony is a man who has read widely. His polymath nature really shines through the start of this book. The subtitle hints at the breadth he explores, “Impact, Implementation & The Future of Work.“

Rather than just focusing on AI, Tony usefully starts by exploring the history of work. From slavery to the “flat white economy,“ he engagingly muses on both our need for work and how we recognize and value our abilities. This mindset guides his later exploration.

He goes on to provide some useful definitions of analytics and AI, helpfully calling out the lack of clarity and misuse of both terms that abounds. From business intelligence to advanced analytics and prescriptive analytics, plus rules-based systems and cognitive analytics, Tony manages to understand the purist distinctions and be pragmatic about what matters.

Going on to define AI, with particular reference to the Turing test, Tony briefly walks us through the history of AI development. As someone who worked in AI before the “AI winter,“ I recognize many of his examples and why the recent renaissance might be different.

Learning from AI in leading-edge industries

His list of leading-edge industries is always going to be controversial. But, given the investments that I have seen, I think there’s a good case for his selection. It includes financial services, automobiles, media/entertainment/telco and retail.

This chapter begins what is the heart of this book. For each sector (e.g. insurance), Tony outlines the relevance of AI and how it might replace some of the work currently done by humans.

His analysis is pragmatic. He points out challenges, difficulties and where either consumers may not accept technology or where the risks are too great. Tony does identify useful opportunities for AI innovation. He also suggests where those working in that sector can still add value.

The detail provided on so many diverse roles is particularly impressive. This is a well-researched book and a result of many years working in some of these sectors. Tony is also pragmatic in his identification of applications. From robo-advice to automated cars or supply chains, he calls out real progress and work still to be done.

AI progress within second-mover industries

Given a media focus on AI within leading-edge industries (e.g. autonomous vehicles), it is interesting to look elsewhere. Reading through the previous chapter, it became obvious that a number of AI innovations should be transferable.

In this chapter, Tony reviews those sectors that are beginning to apply pilots based on the above successes. From construction to utilities, public sector and agriculture, he challenges us to see how widespread adoption of AI could transform these jobs.

From smart homes to connected infrastructure, predictive policing to automated harvesting, Tony presents a picture of not just a threat to jobs, but a different way of working, that has subtly different challenges for each sector.

His challenges to previously accepted hierarchies and divisions between sectors are also important. With automated delivery of supply chains, previously separate industries could merge in new ways, one of many indications of the need for creative thinking by leaders.

The future of AI and its impact on professions

My own experience of seeking to get offshoring of analytics to work has taught me to be skeptical of hype. At the time, many commentators predicted the offshoring of white collar jobs. This proved limited, as the model ended up only working well for well-prescribed, repeatable processes.

We have also been this way before with AI. As Tony mentions, the hey day of expert systems in the 1990s predicted at least decision support for many professional roles, hopes that withered during the AI winter.

So, I read Tony’s chapter on the impact of AI on professional roles with some skepticism. That said, he does make a convincing case across a much wider range of professions than many would consider, not just to doctors, teachers and lawyers. Tony highlights the implications for AI delivering management, finance, engineering and even creative roles.

At the very least, Tony makes the case for opportunities and uncertainty – as a challenge for managers and entrepreneurs in this space. The role AI could play is still only starting to be defined for most professions, and planning would help.

Let’s stop pretending data science and AI are risk-free

Apart from extreme predictions of the end of humanity in robot wars, many articles suggest the rise of AI will be smooth. One might think it was risk-free and in line with the continual improvement of the human condition, even though so much that has gone wrong already should cause us to be circumspect.

Tony rightly includes a chapter summarizing these risks, from system failures to data privacy, employee error to reputational risk. Considering the role of the maturing regulation technology (regtech) sector, it is clear that does not provide all the answers.

Risk management, as for other sectors, needs a balance to be struck between automated efficiency and human judgment.

Prepare for your career in the future of AI

The most useful contribution of this book to society is the way that Tony ends it. In his final four chapters, Tony reviews:

That final chapter should be required reading for all those who will still be working in 20 years. Tony challenges readers to reflect on their motivations and needs, not just popular options.

As Tony encourages, now is not the time for humanity to fade away into a passive life of leisure. This is a time for careful consideration and design, planning how a powerful technology can serve humanity and avoid many pitfalls.

How are you preparing for the way AI will change your work?

I hope you found that book review useful, that it provokes your thinking about how AI will change your career.

From insurtech to jobs to avoid, Tony gives plenty of food for thought. It is also well worth checking his appendices, as resources for data. They cover implementation flowcharts, lists of jobs most affected by AI and professional bodies to advise you.

If you want to buy a copy of this book, you can get it here.

The Most Stressful Job in Insurance

So we all feel we have a tough deal. Creating a product, reducing claims ratios, improving profitability – and even being the captain of the ship when all around us the waters are turbulent, and storms are on the horizon.

But I wanted to share with you what I think is one of the most stressful jobs in insurance. And that is in the HR (human resources) department. Okay, so you are thinking that HR is a comfortable, backroom activity away from the heat of the insurance battle. But that’s not the case.

The insurance battle — if not much of the war — relates to cost-cutting. And that means losing people. Often good people, because they are expensive. These industry experts are often let go quickly, with little warning and with poor compensation despite years of service.

See also: 8 Things to Know About Insurance  

Why should this create stress in the HR department? First, let’s get over the notion that HR is the employee’s friend. I remember when HR was the “trusted adviser” to the employee as well as representing the employer’s interest – but now HR is firmly there to implement employment processes within the terms of employment law. Many senior professions entered HR because of their soft skills, but now they are “the hatchet men” who have to implement major change. No wonder they feel uncomfortable.

(We won’t touch on why it seems to be the guys in HR who get the top jobs, and not the women. That’s a different blog entirely. Think “glass” and “ceiling.”)

Then there is the issue of social media. Many conversations within businesses are meant to take place in an environment of confidentiality, but disgruntled employees are sharing information — often under an alias — about their severance terms and conditions. In many cases, the HR department has little insight into what is being said about their performance and behavior; if they did, they would be horrified.

See also: The Human Resources View Of Health Care Benefits Needs To Change  

The reality is that HR is a profession living in the 1980s but trying to operate in a a business environment of the 2020s, or thereabouts. No wonder HR professionals feel disillusioned and under stress. Big stress.

HR needs to adapt rapidly. HR professionals need to be able to manage social media analytics, especially sentiment analysis, and to be able to manage employees in same way that the marketing department seek to understand their customers. Until that happens, these key professionals will feel like victims of change rather than being the effective implementors.

(Even as victims, of course, at least they’ll keep their jobs. After all, doesn’t someone have to turn off the lights at the end of the day?)

The End of Leadership as We Know It?

As we think about the changes that will inevitably happen within the insurance industry, we also have to recognize that these changes will be reflected in a transformation of the leadership function.

Of course, we have to distinguish between leadership and organizational power. “Power” usually comes from the ability to influence and give direction to others and through hierarchy. The leadership role is often viewed as some form of organizational hero who has the ability to take an organization from a status of failure or inertia, to one of success. But is this hero model still valid, and will it be valid going forward?

Isn’t one of the main problems that the pace and complexity of change is so dramatic that so-called leaders are no longer able to draw on their own experience to help create a compass for the organization? And without experience or adequate understanding, is there a risk that traditional leaders might simply revert to what they know, and create a drag on the business rather than provide the catalyst to drive it forward? In creating this drag, don’t the leaders themselves run the risk of personal criticism if their performance or ambition starts to dwindle?

See also: Inventing Your Future: A 3 X 3 Approach  

The paradox is that leadership can be both the cause of organizational weakness and also the cure if implemented effectively.

Emerging theories of leadership point to a more devolved, flexible and decentralized model of leadership, a model that demands a shared, distributed and relation-based leadership ethos with the emphasis on collaboration – as opposed to the old hierarchical model.

Has leadership become a process rather than a position? If that is the case, then does such an environment present us with the opportunity for a more fluid, richer leadership environment? No more Eureka moments, but rather that the leadership of an organization is constantly shifting and is a reflection of the culture and shared values of the business?

And does it mean that anyone with the word “leader” in their job title – like mine – is toast? Yes, probably, unless as a leader you are personally prepared to change. If leadership is to exist in any form, then it will be by example. Leaders need to show how to collaborate, innovate and be agile. Leadership is no longer about holding the sword and shouting “follow me” or “do what I say.”

See also: The Future of Insurance [Infographic]  

As we increasingly focus on a world of data and analytics, and the associated democratization of understanding and insight, we have to accept that this has the potential to create the collapse of organizational hierarchy. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. Data and democratized analytics inevitably force us to think about leadership in a different way. It might also force us to think about our own careers and professions in a different way, as well.

How we communicate these very major issues is also critical. If we accept that the big data genie is out of the bottle, then we must also accept that the metaphorical Pandora’s Box has been opened. Classicists will know that as Pandora’s Box was opened, then all the evils of the world were allowed to escape from that box. Of course, it’s not quite so dramatic – but will big data and analytics provide the catalyst for a revolution in what we mean by leadership?

Thoughts on Insurance After Brexit

On the day after the U.K. referendum voted to leave the European Union, a leading U.K. newspaper ran a cartoon with the caption, “Democracy is too important to be left to the people.” Of course, it was tongue in cheek, but the point was well made. Since the vote, markets globally have tumbled, shares in financial institutions have fallen, some as much as a third, the U.K. has “lost” Prime Minster Cameron and some are already seeing this referendum as the first sign of the breakup of the European Union.

In my blog of Feb. 29, “What Happens if U.K. Exists the E.U.?“, I suggested that, for the insurance industry, nothing good would come of the U.K. leaving Europe. I wasn’t alone in that thinking. In the days immediately before the vote, 20 European insurance institutes signed a letter asking that the U.K. not leave. The U.K.-based institute of brokers BIBA urged its members to vote to remain. Surveys of U.K.-based insurance executives showed almost universal agreement to stay.

But everyone was allowed to vote, not just insurance professions. The results showed massive division between different parts of the country, and even directly within families, with the agenda dictated ultimately by three key aspects: the economy; sovereignty and immigration. Some are currently arguing that the third factor, immigration, was the most persuasive and divisive – but in fairness they do a disservice to the complexity of the arguments.

In my lifetime, this event is outstanding in that almost everyone had a point of view, and in many cases were prepared to vocalize it. One madman even exercised his democratic freedom by murdering a member of the U.K. Parliament on the other side of the issue. Overall, it was a dirty campaign that, if anything, has undermined the public’s trust in our public representatives.

The challenge really rested with the bilateral nature of the decision. You were either Remain or Leave. There was no halfway house or room for indecision.

And then the results came in. And chaos was unleashed. The philosopher and statistician Nassim Taleb talks about “black swans” – events of low probability but maximum impact – and many are saying that this is one of them. His 2007 book Black Swans – Coping With the Improbable suggests that many financial services organizations are simply not prepared to cope with losses beyond what they have predicted in their models.

But this isn’t entirely true. One major U.K.-based global insurer has already said that, despite its stock value falling by 25%, it has adequately stress tested its business. I really hope that it represents the wider U.K.-based insurance industry, as opposed to being a one-off. Even so, asset managers are already actively reviewing their portfolios, and there will inevitably be a number of knock-on effects.

What all this means for the man in the street remains uncertain. In a saturated market, suffering from overcapacity, will the “leave” vote affect insurance premiums and, if so, in what way? There is already a threat of increased taxation, and it’s unlikely that the insurance industry will remain unscathed. How the major global insurers based in mainland Europe will respond to the U.K. “issue” will also make interesting viewing.

The fall in value of U.K.-based insurers coupled with the weaker pound sterling will make some U.K. insurers extremely vulnerable to predators, especially those keen to gain a foothold in the Northern hemisphere. Do not be surprised by some M&A activity in the coming months.

At the end of the day, despite all the uncertainty, this is an industry – and a country –that is characterized by resilience. For those working in it, and living in it, we have to be honest and recognize that there are likely to be difficult times ahead. But whatever we think of the vote, the essence of how we choose to live in the U.K. (and the Western world) is in respecting the will of the people. Let’s just get on with it.

Could Location Data Be the Golden Thread?

In insurance, location is everything. It helps insurers understand where the risks are, whether there has been accidental (or deliberate) accumulation of risk and where their customers are. Location helps insurers optimize their distribution strategy, their claims services deployment, their supply chain and even how they market and advertise their services.

The technologies of location intelligence and weather prediction also naturally converge to help anticipate the impact of hail and storm, and allow insurers to proactively advise their policyholders to act (although only half of policyholders who are warned of an impending event actually take action). Bringing weather and location information together creates an environment where insurers change from being reactive to being proactive. New touch points are also created with policyholders (as opposed to a single annual request for premium), with the potential both to add value to the insurance proposition and also to improve loyalty

Some might reasonably argue that weather forecasts are already available from the news. Perhaps one task for insurers going forward is to create a more effective interlock between weather forecasting, policyholder behavior and premium reduction?

Increasingly, location is being seen as a subset of big data rather than a stand-alone technology. In a world of data where 80% is unstructured and uncertain, do the coordinates of location provide some sort of anchor for all the new information becoming available? After all, what could be more certain than where something or someone is physically located? Imagine if location data became the golden thread that tied all insurance information together?

For many, location information still equates to mapping and “flat” visualizations. It is fundamentally descriptive in nature, albeit providing effective illustrations of potentially complex issues. As location intelligence increasingly aligns to predictive and cognitive analytics, perhaps the “power of place” may start to assume new meaning?

Location data is becoming increasingly pervasive in the insurance industry. The connected car, the connected home and the connected person all have a location component.

Perhaps the future for insurers isn’t just around being “data-driven” but “location-data-driven”?