Artifical Intelligence is a divisive topic, with both advocates and skeptics dominating the headlines. Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have warned about AI’s destructive potential, while others have more grounded concerns relating to automation and jobs. Hysteria and hyperbole tend to surround anything new, but CEOs and organizational leaders across industries have the opportunity to take a levelheaded approach to AI and its potential.
The technology is somewhat nascent. Although the future remains hazy, investing in education is the smart play. Companies need to better understand AI’s potential if their leaders hope to stay ahead of the game. Here are five ways you can apply a similarly measured approach and ensure your organizaton is well-positioned for the future.
1. Invest in AI-related research and innovation.
The AI field has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, but its real tangibility remains unclear. Still, this shouldn’t deter companies from forging ahead and finding approriate uses for AI. Indeed, gaining a first-mover advantage can be worth the cost of investing in research and development.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, technology mainstays such as Google and Baidu invested between $20 and $30 billion in AI during 2016, with 90 percent of those figures channeled directly into R&D. Startups also saw the signs, devoting $6 to $9 billion to AI research. More important, at least 20 percent of AI-aware firms reported themselves as early adopters.
AI has made a significant difference in several clear-cut use cases. Motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson improved lead generation by 2,930 percent in the three months after it implemented an AI-based marketing system named Albert. Other companies are showing strong results for AI and machine learning — particularly when it comes to generating actionable business insights and boosting sales.
Nearly 80 percent of companies incorporating AI solutions have benefited from better insights and analysis, according to Capgemini’s State of AI Survey for 2017. AI also enabled JP Morgan’s legal team, which reportedly spends hundreds of thousands of hours studying deals, to analyze thousands of documents in seconds while significantly reducing errors.
Research’s goal is finding applicable-use cases, then adapting AI technology to serve the company’s need. Implementing AI for adoption’s sake never should be the norm. That route rarely leads to true operational improvements.
2. Use AI as intended: to complement, not replace.
One of the largest fears surrounding AI is that the technology will depreciate the value of human capital. The argument follows this logic: AI leads to automation and reduces the need for costly human labor because machines can perform the same functions with higher efficiency and less expense.
While compelling, this argument is somewhat flawed. The same Capgemini study found the majority of companies surveyed saw increases in job opportunities alongside improved efficiency and service. Understanding how AI can complement a company’s operations is far more productive than worrying about how it will destroy the labor force.
Moreover, most AI technologies still are limited relative to human capability in several areas. For best results, companies should create systems that highlight the strengths of each. KLM, for example, implemented an AI-assisted customer-service model. The system uses AI to interpret inquiries through the company’s communication channels and offer potential responses to agents, cutting down wait times and improving passengers’ overall satisfaction.