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What Do Business Leaders Need To Know About AI

AI

By Sanjoy Bose

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is something that’s growing bigger by the minute. The extremely fast-paced technology developments have presented us with previously unimaginable solutions. But the reaction around these developments is mixed.

The benefits that machines bring have been written about in detail about how they will free us from mundane work, open up new realms of human capabilities etc. On the other side, others predict a challenging future of widespread unemployment and increasing inequality. there are those that question whether AI is ready to go into production, and if it will live up to the ever-increasing hype.

These discussions can be highly paralyzing for executive leaders. After all, is it a business imperative to replace employees with machines, or would it create a risk of broken trust with employees, customers, and public?

The solution: You don’t need to choose extremes. In fact, it’s evident that organizations that’ll be best-position to succeed will be those that learn to unite the human strengths like creativity, empathy, management, with those of highly capable machines: collection, processing, and analysis of data.

Such organizations, which can be better called “mathematical corporations,” will bring the best of both works by combining human leadership with algorithmic precision; which will enable them to be proactive about the future, rather than relying on traditional methods.

With that in mind, let’s look at some points CXOs should be kept in mind – especially if they’re dealing with Artificial Intelligence and related areas.

Strike a Balance: Avoid Extremes

The first step should be to identify the possible applications of AI solutions to your organization. If the projected performance improvement in a system doesn’t justify the investment required, the best decision is to keep the legacy system unless a more efficient technology arrives.

Then, instead of overhauling your legacy system, the smarter choice is to identify and isolate a part of your system which has the least number of dependencies with respect to the rest of the system and implement an AI replacement for it.

Another highly advisable move is to run the new AI-powered module in a sandbox under close watch before integrating it with the rest of the structure. This precaution ensures minimum friction and confusion when the changes go live.

AI Does Not Replace, Instead, It Complements

It is imperative to understand that AI is not a replacement for your employees. It can, however, immensely increase performance by complementing your workforce. A report by Accenture observes that intelligent automation, innovation diffusion, and labor and capital augmentation, three applications of AI improve the employee-machine bond, putting your employees in the position of power, and will boost rates of profitability by 38% across sixteen industries. 

The gist is, using AI to supplement and complement your employee’s needs and your business requirements will lead to a symbiotic relationship between all three parties involved, the AI machines, your employees, and your business.

Manage Change: Explain what’s coming

The general opinion on AI is largely vacillating. While a rising number of employees now welcome AI in the workplace, lack of communication from management stokes fear and job insecurity. This skepticism makes communication regarding AI rather complex and important. Being honest about the changes to come is the best place to begin. As a leader, it is your job to ascertain that the change leaders convey everything the employees deserve to know, beyond what they ‘need’ to know.

An open communication policy about adaptation to AI will not only make your transition smoother but also encourage your employees to acquire new skills to keep themselves relevant. Keeping the communication two-way will be instrumental in gauging the reservations and issues your employees have and hence, help you in devising strategies in time to tackle these issues.

Encourage Innovation and Simplicity

One of the best ways to innovate is to tap into the collective potential and creativity of the entirety of your human resources. Foster an environment that supports employees following personal projects and pushes for a culture that rewards innovation. Organizing innovation challenges and workshops are the most preferred ways of igniting interest amongst your employees about the next and the latest.

Another thing that should be kept in mind is that while AI is set to solve the most pressing challenges of the world, it really doesn’t have to be that complicated. Starting small, it’s best to tackle small challenges at hand, and keep the solutions simple – that’ll make everybody’s lives easier, and will also prove that Artificial Intelligence, despite being an extremely able futuristic technology, doesn’t have to be cumbersome.

In conclusion, DJI Drones, a Chinese start-up (valued at USD 15 billion) has more than 70% of the global drone market share, all thanks to their AI-enabled drones. HiSilicon (Huawei’s chip design unit) developed an AI-powered chip (currently only for in-house usage) which is considered equally (if not more) efficient than those offered by industry savants like Samsungs, Qualcomm, and Apple.

Google’s AI exploits are no secret, setting Google at the mast of the technological revolution in AI technologies. The key here is to take calculated risks, well-thought-out and planned decisions, and set up an effective communication and innovation support framework.

(This author is Solution Consultant with Sahaj Software and the views expressed here are his own)

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