How CXOs Can Use AI To Redefine Decision Making

by CXOtoday News Desk    Jul 21, 2017


In a data-driven world, we are overloaded with massive amounts of information. More tables, more charts, more bullet-point and so on. But the intrinsic value of information is zero, believe experts. That’s because Information doesn’t have any value on its own; its value comes solely from how it affects our decision-making.

Decisions about our health, our business, our finances, and our communities. Information is definitely one input to our decision-making process, and it’s an important one. But being able to understand the why behind the information is just as important. Ultimately, we need an explanation.

As far as decision-making mechanisms go, there is no better example than the human brain, so Artificial intelligence must evolve to emulate it. Scientists are now using AI tools that understand and respect human decision-making, and are able to provide readers with input and support regarding the information, explanations, options, and outcomes that are important to them.

Read more: How AI Can Deliver Real Value To The Enterprise

Nate Nichols, in his article: “Natural Language Generation in the AI Ecosystem: The Value of Explanation” published on explains how AI can help managers make good decisions based on information. He believes that data can provide the information. For example, the information that your company’s profits are down quarter over quarter. However AI may lead to a better explanation or the cause of the information. For instance, the ultimate cause of profits being down might be that overall sales are down, and the ultimate cause of overall sales being down might be that hot dog sales are down.

Managers can take possible actions based on the explanation. For instance, if hot dog sales are down, then possible options include running a promotion or marketing campaign. Finally, this will result to likely outcomes of enacting the different options. For instance, the associated costs and probable effects of running a promotion on hot dogs. In other words, anyone can read and understand that profits fell, but modeling and understanding the likely outcome of a hot dog marketing campaign requires significant expertise and experience. And that’s exactly why CXOs can use AI tools to refine decision making.

Vegard Kolbjørnsrud, a senior research fellow at Accenture writes in an article in HBR Blog that AI will soon be able to do the administrative tasks that consume much of managers’ time faster, better, and at a lower cost. To find out how managers, from the front lines to the C-suite, can thrive in the age of AI, the company surveyed 1,770 managers from 14 countries and interviewed 37 executives in charge of digital transformation at their organizations. Using this data, successful managers will need to master the following.

1. Leave Administration to AI: According to the survey, managers across all levels spend more than half of their time on administrative coordination and control tasks. For instance, a typical store manager must constantly juggle shift schedules because of staff members’ illnesses, vacations, or sudden departures. They believe, AI will automate many of these tasks.

Read more: CRM To Get Smarter With Artificial Intelligence

2. Focus on Judgment Work: Many decisions require insight beyond what artificial intelligence can squeeze from data alone. As far as decision-making mechanisms go, there is no better example than the human brain. Artificial intelligence must evolve to emulate the essence of human judgment — the application of experience and expertise to critical business decisions and practices. The author quotes Layne Thompson, director of ERP Services for a U.S. Navy IT organization, “More often than not, managers think of what they’re doing as requiring judgment, discretion, experience, and the capacity to improvise, as opposed to simply applying rules. And if one of the potential promises of machine learning is the ability to help make decisions, then we should think of technology as being intended to support rather than replace [managers].”

3. Treat Intelligent Machines as “Colleagues”: Managers who view AI as a kind of colleague will recognize that there’s no need to “race against a machine.” While human judgment is unlikely to be automated, intelligent machines can add enormously to this type of work, assisting in decision support and data-driven simulations as well as search and discovery activities. In fact, 78% of the surveyed managers believe that they will trust the advice of intelligent systems in making business decisions in the future. Not only will AI augment managers’ work, but it will also enable managers to interact with intelligent machines through conversation or other intuitive interfaces. AI will be their always-available assistant and adviser.   

4. Develop Social Skills and Networks: Despite this, many managers undervalued the deep social skills critical to networking, coaching, and collaborating that will help them stand out in a world where AI carries out many of the administrative and analytical tasks they perform today. While they will use digital technologies to tap into the knowledge and judgment of partners, customers, and communities, they must be able to tease out and bring together diverse perspectives, insights, and experiences.  

Read more: AI Is Changing The Face Of Data Security: Study

Kolbjørnsrud believes, AI will ultimately prove to be cheaper, more efficient, and potentially more impartial in its actions than human beings. But such a scenario should not be cause for concern for managers. It just means that their jobs will change to focus on things only humans can do. If the current shortage of analytical talent is any indication, organizations should develop training and recruitment strategies for creativity, collaboration, empathy, and judgment skills and adopt new key performance indicators to drive adoption.

“Those managers capable of assessing what the workforce of the future will look like can prepare themselves for the arrival of AI. They should view it as an opportunity to flourish,” Kolbjørnsrud summed up.