Campus News Faculty Spotlight

The future of work means thriving through change

Gerald Kane is a management information systems professor in the Terry College of Business. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

Gerald Kane prepares students for careers where evolution is given and digital transformation is key

Whether you’re a business analyst or a graphic designer, the last three years have offered a sometimes-unsettling preview of how artificial intelligence might change the future of work.

But you can take comfort, according to author and UGA management information systems professor Gerald Kane, in the fact that people felt the same way about computers, answering machines and even mechanized weaving looms, if you go back far enough.

“My pushback is always that AI is not going to replace people, but people who use AI will replace people who don’t use AI,” Kane said. “Our job at MIS is to help businesses figure out how to make sense of these new technologies — whether it’s helping programmers use AI to be more productive or working with human resources departments to craft the policies that are necessary in a world with AI tools.

“We are in (management information systems) to help people in finance, and accounting, and management, and marketing, and real estate think through the possible impacts of AI and other emerging technologies on their operations.”

Kane, who serves as C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry Chair of Business Administration, was named head of the Terry College of Business Department of MIS at the beginning of this year.

An Atlanta native and former Methodist minister, Kane began his academic career with a Ph.D. in information systems from Emory University and a 16-year tenure on the faculty of Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. He has also served as a visiting scholar at Harvard Business School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He’s best known for his digital transformation research and how new technologies can change a company’s operational rhythm and work culture. His two books, 2021’s “The Transformation Myth Leading Your Organization through Uncertain Times” and 2019’s “The Technology Fallacy: How People Are the Real Key to Digital Transformation,” were published by MIT Press and focus on how companies can best take advantage of technological transitions by preparing their teams to adapt.

Kane succeeded department head Maric Boudreau, who has returned to full-time teaching and research. Boudreau served as department head for 12 of her 22 years on the MIS faculty. During that time, she oversaw an almost quadrupling of the department’s undergraduate majors and nearly tripling of its research faculty.

The reputation of the department’s faculty and students is what drew Kane to the University of Georgia in the first place. He sees continued opportunity to broaden the department’s reach and integrate machine learning across the program of study.

“We are at a unique juncture, because we’ve gone from being a small niche department to being a major player, both at Terry and the university and in the discipline,” Kane said. “That requires a different way of thinking about ourselves. And I’m hoping to help us sort of through that process.”

As a faculty member in MIS, which has a strong relationship with industry advisors and practitioners, Kane feels he is in a good position to help turn students into graduates who can shepherd companies through what he predicts will be successive technological transitions during their careers.

With the rapid pace of technological change, the most significant thing an academic program can give its students is the ability to evolve, he said.

“It’s our job to stay not only on top of what is needed now, but also what’s going to be needed for the future,” he added.  “We’re trying to prepare the students for the business environment of the future, not just for today. Because if we’re preparing for today, we’re going to be too late.”

In addition to producing great thinkers in the digital transformation space, Kane values the role the department plays more broadly across the Terry College in expanding digital fluency and students’ abilities to assess and integrate new technologies into their skill sets.

“I think the role of the MIS department in the business school, in general, is not just to train MIS students to be tech leaders but also make sure other graduates and business leaders through executive education have the technological awareness and skills they need to thrive in their jobs as they change,” he said.