Artificial Intelligence (AI) is on its way to a company near you. Maybe it’s just around the corner. It may even be knocking at your door right now, who knows?
The question is, are you going to greet it with open arms? Or are you going to switch off the lights and pretend no one’s home?
For those business leaders out there with a misplaced fear of artificial intelligence — there are many — the second option likely appeals most. I have actually lost count of the number of CEOs I’ve met who are dismissive at the very thought of introducing AI into their workplace. Yet, the reality is, those who slam the door in the face of artificial intelligence only stand to lose.
On the other hand, those who open it, even just a crack, will be very glad they did.
First thing’s first, let’s bust a few myths. AI is not the nemesis of Man. It is not here to steal jobs, wrest control from human hands, or invade our organisations. No, artificial intelligence is a powerful force that can be used for good, and it stems from decades of painstaking work led by some of the world’s most ingenious minds.
Believe it or not, AI is here to make life better. While some people still struggle with that idea, AI-driven technologies are busy flowing beyond the borders of tech organisations and into the business world. For now, that flow is still a trickle, but it’s filtering down to some of the real corporate heavyweights, from Amazon and its AI-powered Kiva warehouse robots, to GE and its predictive maintenance that keeps industrial equipment running like a dream.
While there is a way to go, investment is starting to ramp up too. In fact, spending on cognitive and AI systems is expected to triple between 2018 and 2022 to $77.6 billion, according to global market intel firm IDC.
If these names and numbers make you feel woefully behind the curve, don’t worry, you’re not alone. In a McKinsey survey of more than 3,000 executives, just 20 per cent of respondents said their companies were implementing AI to any meaningful degree. Interestingly though, 30 per cent of the survey’s “early AI adopters” reported revenue increases.
In fact, the financial benefits of AI adoption are proving hard to ignore. Consider this: Gartner reports that business value created by AI is expected to reach $3.9 trillion in 2022 — that’s more than double the amount of US currency currently in circulation.
The numbers are staggering — and let’s face it, attractive. But, to earn your own piece of the pie, you must first embrace AI. Do you need to become an expert overnight? No, of course not.
Do you need people on side who are? Absolutely. But they don’t have to be in-house staff. So lacking is the pool of AI technical expertise and capabilities that even global giants like Google have turned to other companies for help.
Similarly, just as adopting AI doesn’t require you to become an instant expert, it also does not require you to transform your company into a research firm, plough vast resources into R&D, or partner with tech firms and academia to break new ground. Yes, AI is developing at lightning speed, but within the confines of your own company, you can take things at your own pace.
That can mean starting with external expertise and off-the-shelf solutions that fit with your needs before scaling them gradually.
The important thing is to make sure you can walk before you try to run, and that requires broad-based support from your corporate decision-makers as well as a solid foundation of digital capabilities. You can’t leapfrog your way to AI transformation, so if your digital competences or stakeholder buy-in leave something to be desired, then that’s where your AI journey should begin.
Where it will end, nobody knows, and that’s the exciting part!
Don’t be afraid. When AI comes knocking, open the door and let it in.
Tommy Weir is CEO of enaible: AI-powered Leadership and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.