Although it feels like digital has been around in one form or another for a while now, we are really only at the very earliest stages of what will be a transformational digital revolution. One that will affect all aspects of how we live, work and engage with each other.
The first wave of digital was the rise of social media. The second was big data and analytics. The third is artificial intelligence, or AI.
AI is here today. However, most of us are unaware of it.
The popular image of AI is of humanoid robots with an ability to think for themselves, often painted in a threatening way in that they do everything a human can, but better – faster, more accurately, never tiring – leaving us to wonder what the role of the human will be?
The reality of AI is very different to this popular image. At least it will be for the next decade or so. AI systems are more likely to be sitting in a cloud computing data centre than running up and down the high street doing our shopping.
So what exactly is AI?
AI is essentially software. A complex computer program that is really good at recognizing patterns and drawing conclusions from them. This is also exactly what analytics software does. The difference is that with every operation the AI system executes, it learns something new and, over time, is able to do more and draw better conclusions.
When bolted on to an automation system, these conclusions can result in some form of action that is taken – either by another piece of software (e.g. home heater controller) or hardware (e.g. a robotic arm).
AI will be a game changer for just about every industry and business, public sector organisation and healthcare system. It will transform the way that insights are generated, decisions are made and work gets done.
The adoption of AI will become a strategic imperative for business over the coming 3-5 years, and to fail to understand this and take the necessary action will lead to a chronic loss of competitiveness, let alone the ability to determine thought leadership. AI will result in a step change reduction in costs, increasing productivity and effectiveness.
So, what should you be doing to prepare your organisation for AI?
Follow these five steps:
- Identify the specific business challenges that your organisation has that could be addressed using AI. Remember AI is just a tool, and not a silver bullet solution to all your problems.
- AI is coming whether you want it or not, so be prepared to engage in the inevitable legal and ethical debate around AI proliferation, regardless of how painful these may be.
- Collaboration is critical. You cannot do this alone. Create partnerships and participate in ecosystems to share data and learning.
- Access to high quality data is critical to AI, so make sure you have an effective data strategy.
- Focus on securing and retaining the right talent. Data scientists and AI engineers are in short supply, so understand where your talent is going to come from.
The author of this article, Leading Thought Associate Mark Tuckwood, is a leading foresight and innovation specialist based in Scotland, who works with global clients. In addition to collaborating with Leading Thought, Mark is MD of his own consulting practice, Insight Gravity, which champions the adoption of foresight and innovation. Discover more about Mark on our About Us page, here.