Cobotic Collaboration

13 Sep 2021

Cobotic Collaboration

We will increasingly work with AI and collaborate with AI often without even giving it a second thought. However, effective collaboration is all the more essential for roles such as CTO, CIO and those leading change.

When it comes to avoiding machine replacement, what we do is much less important than how we do it. - Kevin Roose “Futureproof”

While selecting an image to accompany this month’s article to reflect human-ai collaboration, I was struck by how many images of cyborgs have a sinister tone. The images depict a dystopian future. Perhaps I am a tech optimist, but I envisage a more utopian future, a collaborative one in which we work alongside AI much like we do with our smartphones or computers today. 

Like any revolution, the fourth industrial revolution (or Industry 4.0) will present challenges, but change is always difficult. One of the most famous quotes attributed to Charles Darwin is: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change”. However, there is a lesser known quote that is equally, if not more important in this age of exponential change. Darwin also said, “It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed."

At Odgers Berndtson, as search for executives, we do not only seek technical skills, we are also scanning for essential softer skills such as Adaptability, Communication, Decision making, Emotional intelligence, Creativity, Resilience, Leadership, Culture fit and Collaboration. This latter skill is often overlooked, but is present in every top-desired skill list you will read. Apart from intercompany collaboration, there is another reason collaboration is at the top of so many desired-skills lists. It is not just our ability to collaborate with colleagues, but our ability to collaborate with robots. 


Whether it be an Amazon fulfilment centre or the assembly floor of a factory, you will now see machines interacting with human workers. These interactive machines are called Cobots (collaborative robots). We will increasingly work with AI and we will collaborate with AI often without even giving it a second thought. However, effective collaboration is all the more essential for roles such as CTO, CIO and those leading change. Why? These emerging leaders will need to orchestrate change across their organisations ranging from digital transformation to cultural transformation. To succeed, organizations must rank collaboration highly on their essential skills lists. In addition to collaborating with human colleagues we will need to collaborate effectively with machines. The results of this “Cobotic Collaboration” is already remarkable, while there are so many examples, I love this one in the field of healthcare.

Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) have led to the rise of human-AI collaboration. In healthcare, such collaboration could mitigate the shortage of qualified healthcare workers, assist overworked medical professionals, and improve the quality of healthcare and illness detection.

In 2018, Lung Cancer claimed the lives of 160,000 people in the United States. According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the U.S. Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in the world — about 75% of those who have it die within five years of diagnosis. But when cancers are found early, the prognosis is much better. If tumours are small and confined to the lung, almost two-thirds of people survive for at least five years. Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, as researchers train artificial intelligence to screen for cancers, AI is not only reducing the rate of misdiagnosis but is finding subtle patterns that were early indicators of cancer. These patterns were previously missed by even the most expert radiographers. This is not only good news for humankind, but it frees doctors up to enhance their training, spend more time with their patients and one can imagine, collaborate more with technology.

There are countless examples of such cobotic collaboration that will change the course of so many industries. This change means we need to upskill where robots can not compete, our human skills, skills such as collaboration.

Thanks for reading.