McKinsey Quarterly

McKinsey Quarterly 2017 Number 4: Overview and full issue

This issue of the Quarterly, available here as a PDF download, examines AI-driven automation and how it will transform the economy, discusses why lifelong learning should be a corporate priority, and lays out the health imperative for organizations.
Download the full issue of McKinsey Quarterly 2017 Number 4 (PDF–6MB).

Six years ago, economist W. Brian Arthur suggested in the pages of the Quarterly that we were witnessing the birth of a “second economy” comprising digital business processes that continuously communicate with one another. Since then, the second economy has been busy generating, storing, and analyzing more and more data—and we’ve been learning how to make better sense of it. The resulting advances in algorithms, language processing, vision recognition, and the like are, in Arthur’s view, giving rise to something new: an “external intelligence” that represents a source of truly autonomous, intelligent action.

Arthur’s analysis of the implications, entitled “Where is technology taking the economy?,” helps anchor this issue of the Quarterly, which shines a spotlight on artificial intelligence (AI). Arthur focuses on the economic (and political) impact of external intelligence and concludes that distribution—or, as he puts it, “how people get a share in what is produced”—is growing in importance. McKinsey Global Institute chair James Manyika and Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts and author of the recent Taylor review of modern working practices, extend the discussion as they explore ways to avoid what Taylor calls “technological determinism” in our approach to AI, as well as to create “better” work.

As machines get smarter, humans must keep learning. Since 2016, McKinsey has been convening the Consortium for Advancing Adult Learning & Development (CAALD), a group of learning authorities whose members include researchers, corporate and nonprofit leaders, and McKinsey experts. At a recent summit in Boston, the group examined what artificial intelligence means for learning. You can explore the discussion in “Getting ready for the future of work” and “Learning innovation in the digital age.” And don’t miss the open letter to leaders penned by two CAALD members, Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson and Bror Saxberg of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which focuses on the importance of “Putting lifelong learning on the CEO agenda.”

The advance of AI has profound implications for the life of organizations, including their health, which is the subject of another package of features in this issue. Senior partner Chris Gagnon, who leads OrgSolutions, McKinsey’s center for improving organizational culture, and his colleagues unveil striking new research: when companies work on their health, they can achieve rapid, measurable improvements both in organizational well-being and in business performance; healthy organizations are more likely to orient themselves toward the long term; and companies in the midst of a rapid transformation effort boost the odds of sustaining their gains when they simultaneously address organizational health.

Health has many meanings, of course; it encompasses the efforts of individuals and organizations to stay physically well, which we explore in “Wellness at work: The promise and pitfalls.” And organizational health is heavily influenced by the actions of leaders, to whom Stanford professor Bob Sutton addresses the question: “Are you the source of workplace dysfunction?” In the brave new world we’re entering, leaders who avoid the hazards described by Sutton, and create meaning for employees coping with potentially disorienting change, will be more important than ever.

Download the full issue of McKinsey Quarterly 2017 Number 4 (PDF–6MB).

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