Roger Trapp Contributor

For More Information : Forbes

Given the wave of concern breaking over the rise of Artificial Intelligence, robots and other manifestations of technology, it is perhaps surprising that business leaders are not more worried. After all, if even some of the predictions in this area come true there will be widespread ramifications for jobs, communities and society as a whole. This is why there is so much debate among policymakers and commentators on how to counter the threat through such means as introducing tax incentives to persuade businesses not to replace employees with machines or how to deal with the consequences through such means as some form of universal basic income.

And yet the overwhelming majority of senior executives surveyed by the professional firm Deloitte believe the developments being grouped under the heading Industry 4.0 will leader to greater equality and stability. That finding is counter-intuitive enough on its own. But it even appears to fly in the face of other views shared by the executives in the report The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here – are you ready? Just 14% of the 1,600 C-level executives across 19 countries interviewed were highly confident that their organizations were ready to harness fully the changes associated with digitisation, the Internet of Things, AI and the rest. Moreover, only a quarter were highly confident that they had the right sort of workforce and skills to deal with this – even though 84% said they were doing everything they could to create the right workforce.

In another curious juxtaposition, three-quarters of executives believed – probably correctly – that businesses would have much more influence than governments and other entities in shaping the future enabled by this latest revolution while not even a quarter felt their own organizations held much influence over such areas as education, sustainability and social mobility. False modesty or a realization that – unless they were running a business like Google or Apple – they were essentially playing catch-up? It is hard to say. But a clue comes in the finding that, while they saw new business models or methods of delivery as the biggest threat to their organizations, executives were largely using the new technologies to make existing operations more efficient or cost-effective when, of course, the real opportunities lie in using innovative business models that might create value and also protect them from disruption.Describing the findings in Deloitte Insights, Punit Renjen, CEO of Deloitte Global, writes that this fourth industrial revolution (coming after the original Industrial Revolution, which industrialized manufacturing through harnessing steam and creating the power loom; the development of mass production on the back of electricity and the development of assembly lines a century later; and the technological revolution of the 1970s created by the arrival of computing power) represents a broad, pervasive shift that should be dealt with comprehensively if organizations are to thrive.

He adds: “All revolutions are disruptive, and Industry 4.0 is no exception. It poses risks, but offers tremendous opportunity: for new products and services, better ways to serve customers, new types of jobs, and wholly new business models. As with previous industrial revolutions, the impact of these changes has the potential to ripple across industries, businesses, and communities, affecting not just how we work, but how we live and relate to each other.” The survey shows that executives “get it” in that they understand that this revolution will bring dramatic changes, and that they need to prepare. “Yet they are less certain as to how to take action, and don’t have much time.”

This does not sound like a recipe for business leading the way to a bright new future. Rather, it suggests a certain stumbling around. It is little wonder that there are often such yawning gaps between the leaders and the laggards in individual sectors. But, Renjen appears to suggest, all is not lost. There is still time for leaders to choose to “think more broadly and act decisively” and so improve the chances of this latest revolution being a force for good in much the same way as its predecessors.