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Compassion gives competitive advantage over robots in workplace

Claudia Olsson, expert in digital leadership

Claudia Olsson outside in the city with a mirror image on house facade
“My key piece of advice to entrepreneurs is to focus on how technology can help meet global challenges, such as security, climate and health. Wherever we see the greatest needs, that’s also where the greatest opportunities lie for the companies of the future,” says Claudia Olsson, CEO and founder of Stellar Capacity, a training company in Digital Leadership.
Published Sep 23, 2022

“Technical progress has always scared people, as it can be hard to gauge the long-term consequences. But the more we learn about artificial intelligence, the better we can prepare for the future and prevent the technology from potentially being used against us," says KTH alumna Claudia Olsson, expert in digital leadership.

In the workplaces of the future, with people and robots increasingly complementing one another, Claudia Olsson predicts that many current job roles will need to be restructured.
“Driverless cars and trucks, for instance, will change the driving profession. Artificial intelligence that can design buildings and graphic profiles will alter the role of designer. And automatic accounting could reduce the need for accountants moving forward,” she says.

Claudia Olsson also believes that the role of engineer could change, since tasks such as computer programming could be wholly or partly replaced by automated coding in the future and performed by robots.
“A lot of people think that robots can only replace workers who have simple, repetitive work tasks, but on the labour market there’s a great need to automate the professional skills that cost the most or are hardest to come by.”

Claudia Olsson in front of a concrete wall, a bicycle and lamp post
Claudia Olsson is the founder of Stellar Capacity, a knowledge partner for developing digital skills and future-oriented leadership for individuals and organizations. Its courses prepare companies and government agencies for a digital future, and teach technical skills and analytical ability, as well as digital culture, change management and mindset. Claudia Olsson is also the founder of Swedish for Professionals, which teaches Swedish, English and intercultural understanding at workplaces.

Are there any human qualities that are needed on the job market and that still cannot be replaced by AI?
“Yes. Robots can’t replace people in jobs that require human care and consciousness. Human contact is still needed in social and medical care, for example.
“It’s also clear that at most workplaces, culture, leadership and human interaction are crucial in how well we manage to deal with rapid change in a digital world. So human learning, compassion and creativity will be increasingly key areas of development.”

Another quality which she calls “uniquely human”, and which therefore constitutes a competitive edge over robots, is the ability to ask the right questions at the right time – questions that are of genuine value and benefit to humanity.

Claudia Olsson believes it is important that societies work long-term for “what is ethically and empathetically right” in AI contexts.
“Technology can be a democratising force if we exploit its full potential, but at the same time we must make sure that we develop technology based on clearly defined ethical principles.”
What do you say to those who view AI’s growing role in society as a threat?
“I absolutely understand that, as the consequences of AI could be negative if we don’t take full responsibility. We need to see the risks, but also to focus in on taking advantage of the opportunities. But we shouldn’t be too pessimistic. Broadly speaking, I can see a tendency to catastrophise when it comes to AI and digitalisation generally, and I don’t think being afraid of progress helps anyone. Instead, we should spend time learning more about progress so that we can make better long-term decisions, both for individuals and for society.”
Claudia Olsson emphasises the value of establishing more dialogue and standardised regulation of AI systems internationally.
“We need more international collaboration around how our personal data should be managed, for example.”

She believes that many new questions will arise in the near future about what is and is not permitted in data collection, particularly when it comes to aspects such as surveillance and privacy.
“We make important choices in different technological shifts, so we should be well informed and well prepared. While we may feel safe sharing our personal data today, we don’t know how it might be used in the long term. That’s why I think we need more knowledge and reflection about data security generally. Learning will be a success factor for our future society.”

Text: Katarina Ahlfort
Photo: Mikael Sjöberg

About Claudia Olsson

Currently: KTH alumna, CEO of Stellar Capacity, also Board Chairman of Swedish for Professionals and Board Member of Swedes Worldwide.
Career: After completing MScs in Industrial Engineering at KTH and International Business at the Stockholm School of Economics, Claudia Olsson founded Stellar Capacity (link) in 2014, a training company in digital leadership. That same year she co-founded Swedish for Professionals (link), a training company in language tuition and intercultural skills.
Education: MSc Industrial Engineering from KTH and MSc in International Business from the Stockholm School of Economics, 2014. Studied at INSA Lyon, France and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany. In 2010 she took part in the Singularity University Graduate Studies Program at NASA Ames, and in 2017 in the Bucerius Summer School on Global Governance. She also took part in the World Economic Forum’s leadership programme with Saïd Business School in 2019, and further qualified in leadership at Harvard Kennedy Executive School in 2021. Currently reading an Executive MBA at Wharton, Philadelphia.
Awards: In 2017, Claudia Olsson was nominated as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. In 2018 she was voted one of Europe’s most prominent young leaders under 40 by Friends of Europe, and in 2018 and 2019 she was voted one of the most powerful women in business by Swedish business weekly Veckans Affärer. In 2020 she became a member of the Trilateral Commission, where she was also nominated as a David Rockefeller Fellow.
Summer speaker on the well-known Swedish radio show ‘Summer on P1’ in 2021, author of the Digitalization Commission’s Scenario Sweden 2030, also co-author of the European Commission’s Vision for Industry 2030 report.

Belongs to: About KTH
Last changed: Sep 23, 2022