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From Streaming TV To AI: Why Aren't Leaders Keeping Up?


The arrival and staying power of artificial intelligence (AI) have been, for certain companies, unwelcome and unexpected developments. To many leaders, AI looked at first glance like a squatter invading their rightful space or an unwelcome houseguest that could safely be ignored until it saw itself out—at which point, they expected to get on with their work as they had always done it.

AI is not, of course, without its challenges—many of which are well-known. Based on those challenges, some might believe the technology is unproven and fickle, finding it prudent to ignore it altogether. They have not changed how they operate one bit.

It's time to admit that AI is here. It isn't catching on; it has caught on, and we can safely say it won't soon disappear. The market size of AI is only going to increase in the years to come. ChatGPT racked up 1 million users in its first five days alone, and in February 2023, Reuters cited a UBS study that declared it "the fastest-growing consumer application in history." AI is an overwhelming force that is changing the way we work, and its work has only just begun.

Stop Ignoring Innovation (And Learn From Past Mistakes)

The AI strategy inertia is as unfortunate as it is predictable. I have seen similar things happen again and again with innovation after innovation—leaders drag their feet. They doubt the latest innovation, eye it with suspicion and avoid the risk. Eventually, their organizations go out of business or have to pay a heavy price to catch up.

The bad news is that ignoring innovation as transformational as AI is a dead end—literally. I believe that organizations that fail to adopt AI will go out of business in the next several years.

The good news is that there is still time to develop AI strategy and capabilities in order to reap AI's transformational benefits.

Digital Innovation Is About Communications

As I said many times in my keynotes and articles, innovation is about communication. When digital innovations arrive on the scene, they register as changes in how we reach one another as well as the ways we talk and write to other people.

With the advent of the internet came the infrastructure for global communication and the sharing of information. The web made that infrastructure accessible to everyday people. From there came social media, which transformed networking and changed the way people met and represented themselves to one another. Podcasting made it possible to broadcast one person's voice to any number of listeners. The list could go on.

Yet We See Resistance To Innovation

Despite this history, all of which exists in recent memory, many leaders can be stubbornly resistant to change. Ironically, that resistance is very visible in the communications field.

Newspapers took their time embracing digital and continue to suffer the consequences of that, with circulations in a steep and steady decline ever since we all moved online. Television networks were skeptical toward online streaming and have had to play catch-up with platforms like Netflix ever since. The radio industry saw podcasting as a threat when the right answer was that it was a stage in the medium's evolution, a new container for the material they excel at producing.

We now see the same thing happening with AI. Leaders and communications teams are, in many cases, once again opting to be left behind. They are waiting to see whether AI will really catch on—not realizing that it already has. They are letting their fears get the better of them. Instead, the time to act is now.

What You Can Do Now

1. Develop your AI strategy. Looking at the last two decades of innovations in communications, it's clear that digital innovation will continue. AI is just the beginning. Every communications organization must adopt an innovation strategy with the intention to innovate, experiment, learn, and adapt continuously.

2. Be honest and examine your digital maturity. Examine your organization's current skill set, technology investments, and tools, and identify where you are falling short. You have to fully understand your limitations before you can effectively address them.

3. Invest in new capabilities. You must spend to innovate. Organizations must allocate budgets for experimenting with new technologies. Today, it is AI. Tomorrow, it will be something else. However, it's far better to devote resources to experiment and learn early on than it is to have to spend even more once you are left to catch up with the competition.

The same goes for workforce development. Create policy. Encourage your team to experiment and spend their time finding ways to responsibly take the raw power embedded in AI and synthesize it, making it useful to the whole organization. It will pay off.

Act Now—Before It's Too Late

In short, take a lesson from history. Realize that those who hesitate risk being left behind. Don't wait and see who survives the current revolution. Join the revolution. Be an active participant in shaping the future that it will inevitably bring on.

Remember, embracing AI is not optional. Leaders who fail to learn the digital transformation lessons at hand will find themselves without anything to lead.

This article originally appeared in on December 1, 2023


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