AI is just a tool. And, like your hammer, it needs you to be productive. OK, yes, it is a cool, advanced, complicated tool. Let’s go with a 3D printer as the better analogy than a hammer: training required, still in its early stages, making great advances every day. So, how do you use this tool in your business? My top four tips:
1. Understand that AI is not magic; it is just maths – and it needs you. From chess to weather, humans + computers can produce significantly better results than either alone. You should be asking your team, or questioning yourself, about what machine learning algorithm was chosen and why it fits the results you need and the data you have. And, you should be questioning the results; remember, Kasparov lost to Deep Blue due to a bug. Just because an algorithm is right more often than you doesn’t mean its rightness overlaps yours. Again, you and AI are better together.
2. Get serious about your digital transformation. You likely didn’t take the internet or mobile as seriously as you should have. Internet and mobile are the extroverts of technology; AI is an introvert. As we have learned, introverts don’t speak up as much. Don’t let this keep you from engaging AI. I recommend starting with areas where you have already started statistical optimizations, as you know your data better there and already have measurements and benchmarks. Then, move to empowering innovations with some experience in your sails.
3. Stop with the excuses: “We don’t have enough data” or “We don’t have the expertise.” One of the foremost AI experts, Google’s Jeff Dean, recently replied to the question on whether mere mortal companies have enough data for AI with an emphatic, “YES!” As for the expertise, focus on best practices in software development and design, a.k.a., read Marty Cagan’s Inspired. The only addition, I have for his framework when integrating AI into development is to add a data whisperer to the team – someone who knows your data and how it is generated and used by your company now.
4. Build a learning org. What if an AI in your ecommerce platform calculated a new product bundle? How fast could your team react? What if the AI created a new bundle in real time? How would you deal with that? What if an AI in your sales force automation calculated it was best to politely ignore requests from who you think is your best customer? How would you assess that learning from your new team member, AI? Intelligence is defined by the ability to acquire and apply knowledge, a.k.a., the ability to learn. You now must learn how to learn from AI. Start here.
In reference to AI, Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired said, “There has never been a better time with more opportunities, more openings, lower barriers, higher benefit/risk ratios, better returns, greater upside than now.” The opportunity is in front of you, and accessible to you. Start working with the tool you’ve been given, and start finding your upside.