AI in my lexicon is Appreciative Inquiry, not Artificial Intelligence.
I am a student of Leadership and Organisation Development, not an expert in the Information Technology business.
As I look at the Indian IT Services industry today, I see a dire need for its leadership to demonstrate a positive and appreciative approach to driving change and shaping the narrative in the minds of the millions who are dependent on them. This is where I hope they look to AI (Appreciative Inquiry, not Artificial Intelligence) for inspiration. (Appreciative Inquiry is a positive approach to championing Organisation Development, change and appreciative leadership.)
Let’s dial back in time.
First, the founding leaders in India’s IT service companies created a huge sense of anticipation about the future which served to inspire so many young men and women to embrace this industry. They held out the hope of honest Indians being able to build businesses, the vision of careers which offered respect and dignity. The promise of an egalitarian society without pay disparity. The vision of global career opportunities. Of investment in development.
This is what in AI is called the Anticipatory Principle. The conviction that Images inspire action. That human systems move in the direction of their images of the future. That, the more positive and hopeful the image of the future, the more positive the present-day action.
Second, despite all the challenges that existed in those pioneering days, they chose to engage with and talk about things that elevated the narrative. There was talk about the customer coming second. About the world’s largest campuses, sharing wealth, about great food, about employee friendly policies, open culture and so on.
This is what in AI is called the Poetic Principle. We can choose what we study. That teams and organizations, like open books, are endless sources of study and learning and what we choose to study makes a difference. It describes – even creates – the world as we know it.
Cut over to the present day.
Where is the anticipatory principle in play? Which leader is sharing an inspiring image about the future? What is the hope?
What are we choosing to study today? I only see reports about quarterly earnings, about job losses, about employees not wanting to return to offices, about hiring scams, about lawsuits, about AI (the other AI) threatening to take away millions of jobs, about sports stars being signed up to be brand ambassadors and so on.
Are we saying there is nothing to anticipate and only endless pathos? That is serious.
This is where real Leadership matters. And I see little evidence of that right now. I really hope it changes, soon. Remember, millions are anxious and waiting.