The Link Between Artificial Intelligence and Workplace Culture

December 4, 2023 Jamie Notter

BOTTOM LINE:

AI seems tailor made to help us make our cultures more futurist, which ultimately means it will help make our organizations more human (ironically). If you’re doing culture change, make sure to include some AI-enabled plays in your playbook.

THE DETAILS:

In our upcoming book we share our research around what we call “culture patterns.” Culture patterns are dynamics in your culture that prevent you from fully living what is valued. For example, you are committed to collaboration—it’s something you truly value in your culture—yet you have those pesky silos that make collaboration difficult, or layers in the hierarchy struggle to work together well. This is the pattern we call “awkward collaboration,” and it’s very common.

There are eight patterns we’ve identified, and they all have a similarity when it comes to the aggregate data from our culture assessment. There is a part of the pattern where we excel (i.e., score higher in the data). In the case of collaboration, it’s around collaborative individuals. Most cultures fully embrace the idea that as individuals, we should help each other out. But there is also a part where we struggle (score lower), and for collaboration it’s around how groups collaborate, hence my comments above about silos and layers in the hierarchy.

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The scale in our assessment ranges from traditional to futurist, so the parts where we struggle are areas where we are more like traditional management (command and control, limited information sharing, change is hard, etc.). Futurist organizations score higher in these areas. Futurist organizations have flexible hierarchies and aren’t territorial. They are good at fixing things when they are broken and stopping things that don’t provide value. They are pro-active in the way they share information. They practice innovation, rather than just talking about it. They meet employees’ deeper needs, rather than just solving surface level problems.

So here’s where AI fits in: AI is good at all those things too. AI has a futurist bias.

AI can help us customize and focus more on employee needs. AI can help us see through our silo boundaries to enable better collaboration. AI can help us think through risks, making it easier for us to take risks and start putting innovation into practice. AI can see all of our data, making it easier for us to share it more proactively.

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Believe it or not, AI seems well designed to make organizations more human.

That’s the core distinction between traditional and futurist that we laid out more than a decade ago in our first book, Humanize: traditional management is machine-centric in its approach, while futurist management is human-centric. AI looks like it can be a great enabler of a human-centric approach.

In the end, AI is just a tool. You can use that tool to improve your culture, though you will need to employ other tools as well. To use the language of our culture change model, you can run many AI-enabled “plays” in your culture change playbook if you want a more futurist culture. And AI is moving fast, so don’t stand on the sidelines on this one.

Jamie Notter

Jamie is a co-founder and culture strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders create amazing workplace cultures that drive greater performance and impact. He brings thirty years of experience to his work designing and managing culture, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is the co-author of four popular business books, including the award-winning Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement, and his fall 2023 release, Culture Change Made Easy. He holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.