Michael McQueen is a multi-award-winning speaker, change strategist, and best-selling author of 10 books. With clients that include Google, Toyota, and Mastercard, he’s helped some of the world’s most successful brands navigate uncertainty and stay ahead of the curve.

McQueen is a regular commentator on television and radio, and his work has been featured in media outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and CNN. He’s also a familiar face on the international conference circuit, having shared the stage with Bill Gates, Mel Robbins, and Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, among others.

Over the past nearly 20 years, McQueen has spoken to more than 500,000 individuals across five continents. Recognized as Australia’s Keynote Speaker of the Year, McQueen was inducted into the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame.

Strategic Finance: What industries do you see AI having an impact on right now?

Michael McQueen: There are very few industries that aren’t being impacted by AI in a fundamental way at the moment. According to research at MIT, the professions being most disrupted are those that require high cognitive skills but also involve doing repetitive work. In contrast, professions that require physical involvement (using your body more than your brain) and involve high variability in the sort of work being done are being impacted less. As a result, the “safest” profession is hairstyling, while many white-collar professional services roles are being transformed by AI more quickly.

SF: What role do you see management accountants playing in the AI transformation?

MM: The key role for management accountants centers on using softer skills such as creativity, strategic thinking, intuition, and judgment rather than the more traditional hard skills that have characterized the profession. The big question for any role or organization is whether to see AI as a painkiller or a vitamin. In other words, is its purpose to remove pain points, inefficiencies, or burdensome administrative tasks that have traditionally been a “headache” we’ve put up with, or is it about unlocking and accelerating new opportunities for growth and profitability?

In the case of management accountants, AI will play both roles of painkiller and vitamin in that it will streamline many tasks that take time and don’t add enormous value while allowing for greater insights and data-driven capabilities that will unlock new sources of value in a business.

SF: What types of workplace culture shifts will we see in the next 10 years?

MM: One of the big cultural shifts will be to embrace genuine flexibility. Beyond enabling hybrid or remote work, true flexibility relies on people and ideas being able to move more freely in organizations rather than being bound by traditional structures and expectations. When this sort of flexibility and agility is achieved, the best ideas come to the fore and innovation becomes a natural consequence.

Another key shift will be to embrace generational diversity. Considering that Gen Z will make up one-third of the workforce by the end of 2024, creating a culture that meaningfully engages this group will be essential. Younger generations are adaptable and pragmatic in some wonderful ways, but they also can have very different expectations around values alignment and authenticity compared with the leaders and organizations they work for.

SF: As new disruptions in business arise every day, how can professionals stay ahead of the curve and how do they prepare for what’s next?

MM: Two of the character traits that will be essential in the coming years will be hunger and humility. Staying one step ahead of change will require a willingness to challenge established norms and update deeply held beliefs. The moment any business or leader thinks they’ve “made it,” they’ve already “passed it.”

Michael McQueen will be a keynote speaker at IMA’s Americas Accounting & Finance Conference, themed “Inspire Tomorrow,” taking place June 9-12, 2024, in San Antonio, Texas, where he’ll present “Preparing Now for What’s Next: How to Thrive in the Age of Uncertainty.”

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