by Kristen Corpolongo

How women in tech can lead in an era of smart machines

Nov 16, 2015
IT Leadership

Smart machines will be the most disruptive technology in the next 10 years. Women can guide visionary organizations into the future with new strategies and re-defined leadership.

As lean in leaders and social-savvy consumers, women are set to disrupt the industry along with the rise of smart machines. At last month’s Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, Gartner Fellow Darryl Plummer discussed Gartner’s top predictions for the tech industry: smart machines will be generating more of the content we read, managing our work, and performing economic transactions. It’s time to re-think expertise in terms of our vision as tech executives when our industry is undergoing serious change.

There is a parallel disruption with women’s leadership in tech and smart machines that we should engage by:

  • defining a new work system that capitalizes on individual strengths of people, such as empathy and storytelling;
  • adjusting our leadership styles in order to take more risks and focus on innovation;
  • building alliances with vendors with smart machine technology to create competitive advantages for your business; and
  • leveraging new expertise arisen from technological advances to augment opportunities.

A humanized work system

Women tech leadership can anticipate the rise of smart machines in their own organizations by initiating and supporting new work systems built on individuals’ strengths and deeper collaboration between people. New kinds of automation via smart machines (for example: proactive search, graphical analytics, virtual personal assistants) will eventually create a new-normal where both the customer and employee experience is defined through authentic human communication rather than a simple transaction.

Humans are less participatory in the transaction with smart machines becoming transactional experts and humans becoming the keystone of the overall experience. Human gifts such as empathy and storytelling will become imperative in the new work system. For example, in journalism, while data-based content become machine-generated, the writer’s task becomes one of weaving themes and applying higher abstract thinking to the facts at hand, leading to an overall richer experience for the reader.

Smart leadership from women tech executives will anticipate the transformation of smart machines in our industry by bringing visionary institutions forward through humanized work systems that emphasize credibility, creativity and intuition inside and outside of their organizations.

Open leadership

A new machine-supported knowledge economy requires that women execs and entrepreneurs adjust their leadership styles in order to innovate faster by being willing to take more risks. Transformational women’s leadership in tech should leverage smart machines to unlock institutional knowledge and maximize expertise in the organization.

For instance, enterprise social graphs (ESGs) can be a mesh of technologies used to represent workplace dynamics such as connections between employees and non-employees as well as work objects. ESGs enable smart advisors within your organization, find hidden expertise inside teams and projects, and foster deep collaboration when they are aligned with targeted business goals and open leaders.

Enabled and supported by smart machines and technologies such as ESGs, women can adjust their leadership style to be more open and transparent while creating an innovation-focused culture based on consistent learning opportunities from “fast failures.” Women in tech leadership can utilize enterprise social networks and other social sharing applications with employees to facilitate a deeper, transparent conversation and share more information about organizational goals, projects, and initiatives – what works, what doesn’t work, what we learned, how to move forward. An open, human-centered leadership style can illustrate a vision and commitment to technological transformation when it is coupled with the use of smart machines within the new work system.

Co-creation partnerships

Women leaders in tech should leverage vendor relationships based on shared goals and co-creation in the new smart machine-driven economy. Partnerships with vendors who are currently further down the path of smart machine development can help your organization amplify and diversify assets in this area of growth. Additionally, co-creation agreements with vendors can make for a more powerful smart machine when partnerships leverage the mutual trust and transparency between organizations and the industries they serve.

Leveraging ESGs in the context of your business goals, for example, for an optimized socially-connected organization requires the support and guidance of vendors in the enterprise social network arena to ensure the ESG is meaningful within the context of your organization’s vision. The relationships that women leaders build with vendors in smart technology to serve customers externally or serve the vision for your organization internally will create a competitive advantage for you.

Organizational augmentation

Finally, smart machines will lead our organizations to work smarter through augmentation; women executives should start evaluating smart machines as collaborators in creative diagnostics and troubleshooting. Women execs need to make a shift to move beyond efficiency by developing an organizational augmentation strategy with smart technology as a foundation. This strategy implores us to think about deepening the work of our organizations and the value we provide through the use of smart technology.

The humanization of our organizations and the addition of smart machines implores us to create narratives beyond simple analysis of data, calling for us to ask what is possible and where innovation may present itself. Augmentation strategies force us to re-think expertise; no longer are humans employed as computation machines or experts. Instead, the human work system transforms into an economy where the human resource brings curiosity, empathy and creativity to the team.

Women tech executives need to start preparing their leadership and their organizations for an industry disrupted by smart technology. Adjusting our work systems, our leadership styles, our vendor relationships, and rethinking what’s possible for our business will re-define business itself.