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Putting corporate purpose at the core of technology decisions

April 10, 2024

As we begin to adjust the world of work to the realities of the post-pandemic era, it is critical to recognize that public expectations of businesses have also evolved with the times. From climate change mitigation to social responsibility, citizens expect corporations to articulate a clear view of why they exist and to make decisions about investments and behaviour that are consistent with that mission.

Included in these considerations are decisions about technology: when to use them, how to deploy them and to what end. Of course, the planning and adoption of technology are fundamental to the viability of any business. But technology adoption is not inherently good. Technologies are neither good nor bad – and it is in their use that organizations determine their impact. A purposeful company, therefore, determines the desired outcomes of technology adoption before it makes the investment.

In this thought-provoking new research paper, Dr. Sara Diamond and Dr. Cindy Gordon explore the relationship between technology and corporate purpose, specifically with regards to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). The authors examine why it is so critical that corporate leaders consider the impact of these technologies on their organization as a whole before any decisions on adoption and deployment are made. To guide these processes, they make specific recommendations for board executives and leaders for the effective adoption of AI and ML.

In their expert view, “a purposeful company is skeptical as to whether a new technology or a new use of existing technology is better than current practice. Purpose must look well beyond quarterly profits and instead speak to long-term sustainability and social balance.”

Technologies do not exist in a vacuum. Everything about them – from design to adoption to impacts – is shaped by decisions humans make. Before tackling technological change, therefore, purposeful companies lead by analyzing impacts on their multiple stakeholders and undertaking change in collaboration with communities, users and customers, keeping their investors, shareholders and boards well-informed.

In the end, Diamond and Gordon caution directors to not be swept away by technology for its own sake. Rather, they make a most compelling case that corporate leaders must ensure technology is embedded in a strategy that is genuinely guided by purpose.

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