This Week in Culture

AI: Big Tech Is Your Future Auto Maker, Healthcare Provider, and Oil & Gas Supplier 

How Traditional Enterprises Risk Becoming Mere Inputs to Big Tech

The transformative potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in shaping the future of traditional enterprises cannot be overstated. Dr. Lisa Palmer’s poignant analysis in this article unveils something huge: traditional companies risk becoming mere inputs to the expansive AI value chains of leading tech companies.  This scenario is not just a technological shift but a fundamental realignment of industry power structures and value creation. 

In the near future, imagine traditional automakers disrupted by tech giants who have mastered AI-driven vehicle design and manufacturing through “software-defined vehicles.” Traditional automakers, once industry leaders, find themselves reduced to supplying raw materials and components for tech companies’ highly automated micro-factories. Advanced robotics and automation, along with machine learning algorithms, enhance production lines and supply chains, making them faster, more precise, and cost-effective. Predictive maintenance technologies predict equipment failures before they happen, further reducing costs and improving efficiency. This technological shift enables big tech to produce superior quality products more efficiently, rendering traditional manufacturing methods outdated and diminishing the market share and relevance of long-established automotive companies. 

As AI continues to evolve, a disconnect has emerged between tech behemoths like Google and Amazon and the traditional industrial sectors. These legacy companies, once industry titans in fields such as manufacturing and healthcare, now face the daunting prospect of being relegated to suppliers of raw materials and data, their once-core activities diminished to peripheral roles. This concentration of AI talent and innovation in the hands of a few underscores a critical need for strategic responses. 

The importance of fostering a culture of curiosity and lifelong learning in the face of such disruptive technologies is illustrated vividly by the story of my friend Oleg Kaganovich. Oleg, an accomplished operating executive and a seasoned leader with a rich background as a venture capital investor, multi-time founder, and author, exemplifies the vital importance of lifelong learning in today’s fast-evolving business environment. His career spans various industries and continents, marked by a consistent pursuit of innovation, sustainability, and purpose-driven projects. And at the peak of his career he announced he’s going back to school, pursuing a  

Driven by a passion for guiding teams and leveraging his deep expertise in strategic investment and operations, Oleg decided to pivot towards mastering machine learning and data science. This decision reflects his commitment to staying relevant and competitive in an industry increasingly dominated by AI technologies. His proactive approach—rooted in design thinking, analytical problem-solving, and a knack for identifying ‘diamonds in the rough’—underscores the necessity for traditional business leaders to embrace a similar mindset of adaptability and continuous learning. 

For traditional businesses to avoid becoming subservient to tech giants, they must adopt a multi-faceted strategy: 

  1. Develop In-House AI Expertise: Cultivate an internal team of AI specialists who can tailor AI solutions to enhance core operations and create new value propositions. 
  1. Strategic Partnerships and Acquisitions: Form alliances with tech firms to access cutting-edge AI technology and foster a symbiotic relationship that benefits both parties. 
  1. Utilize AI-as-a-Service: Implement AI solutions provided by cloud platforms to integrate advanced capabilities without extensive capital expenditure. 
  1. Engage with Open-Source AI Communities: Participate in global forums to keep abreast of the latest developments and integrate open-source AI innovations that can enhance competitive edge. 
  1. Custom AI Solutions: Invest in bespoke AI applications that address specific operational challenges or market opportunities unique to your sector. 
  1. Upskill and Reskill Employees: Equip your workforce with the skills needed to work alongside AI, transforming potential workforce obsolescence into an empowered, innovative team. 

The narrative surrounding AI in traditional industries is as much about cultural adaptation as it is about technological integration. The story of Oleg serves as a powerful reminder that embracing change is essential. For companies, this means not only investing in technology but also cultivating a workforce that is curious, adaptable, and technically proficient.  AI advancement is happening very rapidly, and the only sustainable advantage is the ability to learn and evolve continuously. Therefore, companies must take proactive steps to secure their place in the future, transforming potential threats into opportunities for innovation and growth. 

Elsewhere In Culture

Mental Health Awareness Month: How to spot signs of worker stress

I was incredibly excited to be featured in the FOX5 article on worker stress during Mental Health Awareness Month, a time when we shine a spotlight on the often-hidden struggles that affect so many of us. In my role at Culture Partners, I travel the globe helping companies to transform their corporate culture successfully, and nothing is more vital than addressing mental health in the workplace. This article not only highlighted the pressing issue of stress affecting nearly half of all workers but also provided a platform to share effective strategies for fostering a supportive environment. By identifying the subtle signs of stress—like changes in communication habits—we can intervene early and provide the necessary support to our team members. 

The importance of genuinely checking in with employees cannot be overstated. During the interview, I emphasized that simply asking, “How are you doing? No, really, how are you doing?” can open the door to meaningful conversations that might otherwise remain closed. We often say we’re fine as a reflex, but creating a space where vulnerability is welcome and safe can significantly alleviate feelings of isolation. The article captured this message perfectly, resonating with readers and viewers alike, and underscoring the powerful connection between effective communication and reduced workplace stress. As we continue to navigate the complexities of mental health, the acknowledgment by a prominent outlet like FOX5 not only elevates the conversation but also reinforces the critical work we do at Culture Partners to champion mental wellness at work. 

FDIC Investigation Finds Culture Rife With Sexual Harassment, Discrimination

The recent investigation into the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) has unveiled a disturbing landscape of sexual harassment, discrimination, and a culture that too often protects rather than punishes perpetrators. This revelation, outlined in a report by Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, paints a stark picture of a workplace where misconduct not only flourishes but is sometimes rewarded with promotions and reassignments. As a chief scientist of Workplace Culture, it’s disheartening to see such systemic issues persist, particularly at such a high level of our financial regulatory framework. These findings are a critical reminder of the importance of leadership in setting the tone and standards of organizational behavior and the deep impacts that toxic workplace cultures have on employee morale and productivity. 

The response—or lack thereof—to these issues at the FDIC mirrors a problematic trend observed across various sectors where the mechanisms intended to protect employees instead often fail them. As we reflect on these findings, it’s crucial to understand that culture change must be led by those who not only preach values of respect and integrity but also embody these principles in every interaction. For organizations looking to foster a positive workplace culture, it is essential to implement clear policies on interpersonal conduct and to ensure transparency and accountability in their enforcement. At Culture Partners, we emphasize the need for proactive leadership in culture transformation, advocating for environments where every employee feels valued and safe. This unfortunate situation at the FDIC serves as a potent case study for why robust, ethical leadership is indispensable for cultivating a culture that truly supports and uplifts its workforce. 

If you want people to genuinely care, you need to change their beliefs, not only their actions.

I’ve been approached by countless CEOs and leaders, all expressing a shared frustration: despite reminding, urging, and implementing perks and benefits, they face a stark lack of genuine engagement.

This is precisely what we refer to as the “Action Trap.” The Action Trap occurs when leaders find themselves in a continuous cycle of implementing new processes and systems (taking new actions) to change results, rather than addressing the underlying experiences that lead to those results. Our beliefs stem from our experiences.

So, if you want to instill a new belief, you need to create a new experience.

That’s the key to making people care.

Confidence = values x action.  
Do you agree with Paul Epstein‘s formula? 
This week on my hashtag#cultureleaders podcast, I sat down with Paul, a former high-level executive for multiple NFL and NBA teams and the bestselling author of The Power of Playing Offense. 
Paul is renowned for his transformative approach to leadership, fostering purpose-driven leadership and resilient cultures. 
Listen to the full episode here: 
Apple Podcasts: 

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