As a CEO are you ready for AI?

Just a few years ago artificial intelligence was seemingly more of a fixture in Hollywood films than it was in the real life – but just like a blockbuster movie, it’s taking over the world at a startlingly rapid rate.

From Apple’s Siri to targeted advertising on Facebook, AI has been with us for a number of years already, neatly slotting into everyday life where technology is already thoroughly integrated. However, as each day passes, it becomes even more powerful and prominent. So what does that mean for business?

Phuong Kieu
by Phuong Kieu
as a ceo are you ready for AI


Since many CEOs are not digital natives, the rise of this technology can be intimidating. There’s a founded fear of anomalies, privacy concerns, and mistakes – all of which can tarnish a company’s reputation or directly lose revenue. Consequently, many organisations are slow to react to these technological advancements, let alone pre-empt ways in which they can be beneficial. Of course, ignoring them all together can have devastating consequences.

Take HMV – the once domineering global retail giant. Whether it was CDs, DVDs or computer games, it thrived with each and every technological advancement, before its dramatic fall to the Internet. Why? Because those at the helm dismissed downloadable music as a ‘fad’, rather than something that would affect entertainment forever. They never anticipated such an eventuality, and therefore never invested the time, money, and energy into innovating around it. In the same, often-dismissed way, AI is happening. It’s essential CEOs stay informed.

Adapt and benefit

The biggest challenge CEOs face around machine-learning systems is they’ll alter business practice as we know it. But they’ll also bring an infinite number of benefits: personalising customer experiencesenhancing analytics, streamlining production, and allowing a business to expand in ways never thought possible. AI can be a powerful catalyst for disruptive innovation. Of course, the fuel of AI technology is data, and any CEO worth their salt got on board that ship long ago.

Many businesses are already taking an innovative approach to AI. Google has long been combining computer resources with algorithmic intelligence for its search engine, maps, and various other services.

IBM has matured from a hardware company, into one that provides services for cloud computing and data analytics – even purchasing existing digital assets to put through their existing systems. And Humana Inc, a health insurance company, recently implemented AI into its call centres. Their technology senses the customers’ emotions and moods, altering computer prompts accordingly so that employees are better equipped to deal with the call.

CEOs need to be asking this question: what could we do with AI? Preferably long before these innovation challenges surface.

Blue Sky thinking

Blue Sky thinking and collaborative innovation are key. You need to look at what your competitors are doing, what they’re not doing, and why. You need a solid overview of what AI could do for every area within your organisation, not just the obvious ones. For that to happen effectively, it’s wise to encourage innovative thinking among employees at every level of the organisation. Boardroom-based execs don’t always have the monopoly on operations in the way staff on the ground floor do. So it’s important to hear them out in meetings or via innovation management software. Since it can be anonymous, the latter is often preferable, because staff feel more inclined to offer up constructive criticism.

Unlimited blue sky thinking is something to encourage. You might ask your team “How is AI going to change our customers’ behaviour?”, “How could AI take our company to different places?”, or “How do we ensure that artificially intelligent robots are helping us, rather than replacing us?”. You can cultivate a more innovative environment when you get people to use their imaginations – and given AI’s unlimited potential and speed, there’s never been a more apt time to think big, and think into the future.

Fuelling an innovative environment and future

Usually the only people concerned with the future of an organisation are those at the helm of it. You can’t expect employees to be invested in an AI-saturated future when they’re only being rewarded for the next quarter’s earnings. That’s why inviting innovation, measuring innovation and rewarding innovation is imperative for an innovative company culture. Your employees need to be as invested in the organisation’s future as much as possible and view it as much of a priority as present productivity.

Artificial intelligence is seeping into the business world at a rapid, unforgiving rate – and you need to embrace it to survive. If organisations want to exploit it in a way that’s quicker and better than your competitors, it’s up to CEOs to put plans into action now. Like generals preparing for battle, you need to gather your strongest weapons, gather the right knowledge and expertise, and anticipate every eventuality so you’re able to plan accordingly.

The question isn’t “How will AI affect us?” The question is: “How can AI work for us?”

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