Disrupting the Ordinary
A Review of Leading and Managing Change in the Age of Disruption and Artificial Intelligence, by Matthew Donald
Written by Kaitlin Vitt, Editor, Matrix Group Publishing
We live in an ever-changing world. Take the internet, for example—what at one time might have seemed like a wild idea, achievable by and useful for only a few, has developed into a tool so widespread your proficiency in it is assumed and required.
Starting as a communications network, the internet has evolved into a platform where just about anything is possible—you can find answers to all your questions, pay your bills and transfer money, speak face-to-face with someone from the other side of the world.
The internet is just one of many inventions over the years that has affected how we work and is one of many “disruptions” author Dr. Mathew Donald discusses in his book Leading and Managing Change in the Age of Disruption and Artificial Intelligence.
Published in 2019 by Emerald Group Publishing, the book covers disruption, including artificial intelligence, its effects, and how leaders in the workplace can prepare for disruption without necessarily knowing what they are preparing for. Though people in management roles will especially find this book intriguing, anyone interested in learning about how changes in the world affect the workplace will find value in this book.
Donald doesn’t write about a specific industry throughout the book but rather draws upon research from various disciplines, meaning workers in any sector of the mining industry can find value in this book.
AI Versus Disruption
Artificial intelligence (AI) can be described as “when computers join and provide function or information that is superior to the human capability.” Donald provides a brief history of AI and how its definition has evolved, from its start in the 1980s, when a high-level database system was considered an AI, to today, when the definition even includes ideas of intellect.
As Donald explains, disruption doesn’t have a set definition, but for this book, he defines it as “events that are sudden and fast paced and may impact organisations, industries or society.”Disruption can come in the form of automation, geopolitical change, climate crisis, among others.
Throughout the book, Donald distinguishes between AI and disruption and their corresponding impacts, though there is some crossover: given these definitions, AI is a form of disruption, but not all disruption is AI.
A New Workplace
Donald keeps the book timely by highlighting current world events, such as Brexit and climate change, while also including important historical information to round out his proposed thoughts.
Change in the workplace isn’t new. Donald drives this home by giving examples of advancements throughout the 20th century, a time that saw a lot of political change—two world wars, the Great Depression, the Cold War—and technological change—the development of vehicles and airplanes and later more advanced technologies like cell phones and computers.
As Donald says, organizations weren’t—and couldn’t be—structured the same in 2000 as they were in 1900. As we build upon past ideas and technologies, change in the world, and therefore the workplace, will only continue to grow.
So how will today’s disruptions affect the workplace? Donald outlines several ways society is currently being affected, such as changing attitudes among employees who want to achieve a work-life balance, as well as gives examples of potential effects, including how AI could replace workers, posing new challenges due to staff reduction.
Disruption in the workplace, though unpredictable, aren’t necessarily negative. “AI does not mean no humans; it will just change the way things work,” Donald writes. This way of thinking can be applied to any disruption, and as long as leaders and managers are prepared, they can move their organizations forward through times of change.
Disruption can also create opportunity, and we can again look to the internet as an example. Without this world-wide disruption, we would be without many of the technologies and services we see as commonplace. Donald also notes how disruption can put a higher value on remaining workers.
“Whilst staff members may diminish in the future, staff remaining in employment may be more important, requiring higher skills, where good staff relations and motivations will greatly assist an organization to adapt and grow in an organic way,” he writes.
The Only Way Forward
Throughout the seven chapters, Donald provides case studies and proposes questions and exercises to encourage the reader to build upon the research he writes about in the book. This also helps the reader realize just how many disruptions the world has already seen and gives insight into what’s to come. For example, one of the exercise questions asks readers to do research on the bird flu epidemic and asks how organizations can prepare for future pandemic disruptions. In our technology-focused world, it can be easy to forget about disruption outside of technology, but Donald highlights disruption in all categories.
There isn’t one simple answer to how leaders and managers can adapt to these times of disruption, but Donald provides lots of research to showcase how companies have adapted, or failed to adapt, to changes so far, and this is valuable information to anyone in the working sector.
Change, in any form, in the workplace isn’t new, and it isn’t over. Donald emphasizes that the only way forward is to embrace any current changes and to adapt to what’s coming, and this book will help readers do just that.
About the Author
Dr. Mathew Donald is a leading academic in the field of management, leadership and organizational change, with over 30 years of business experience. He is a fellow at CPA Australia and a member of the Australian Institute of Project Management. As an academic, he has taught in the topics of management, accounting, business strategy, international business and leadership. Donald also helps organizations through change with his Modern Change Assessment Tool, as well as appears as a keynote speaker for businesses.