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Three Things You Must Do To Innovate Responsibly With AI


Read three media stories about the impact of the tidal wave called AI on you and your organization, and you’ll almost certainly get three different perspectives.

The mainstream press will likely start with plenty of hand-wringing about lost jobs and layoffs, then quickly reassure you that in the long run, everything will be okay once we acclimate to the ongoing use of artificial intelligence.

The business press will talk about new AI-based startups, the creation of new jobs, and the opportunities that are close at hand. The tech folks will dazzle you with plenty of acronyms while discussing the endless potential of machine learning and what we’ll be able to do with it, both now and in the future.

So what’s the real story? It’s all of the above.

In the dozens of keynotes and workshops about responsible AI innovation that I’ve run with organizations of all shapes and sizes, and my keynote addresses about this kind of innovation, the primary lesson I’ve shared is that the story is really about you and how you decide to handle AI.

I’ve been able to transform these stories into a few choice words and concepts about how AI affects your business, and I’m here to share best practices to make your organization more efficient, opportunistic, and ultimately more innovative.

The Inevitability Of AI: Innovate Or Die

Regardless of how you feel about AI, it’s here and it’s growing. It almost doesn’t matter what your organization does and what industry you’re working in—this new technology is altering the way we innovate and do business.

The most famous example of this is ChatGPT, which took the world by storm and quickly became the most adopted consumer application in the brief but astounding history of apps. The freewheeling chatbot quickly attracted over a million users in five days, including thousands of business adopters seduced by the lure of revolutionary new products, startups that would make them the new instant billionaires, and the power that would come with this life-changing technology.

The Demands, Potential, And Issues That Come With AI

The chatbot—and other early forms of generative AI that we are looking at today—are not perfect. AI tools are making plenty of mistakes, some innocent, others with the potential to be malevolent.

New technologies always expose some very human issues based on our attitudes to change.

Many companies found their ability to adopt hindered by a new version of the old-style generation gap, as older leaders and executives found themselves struggling to keep up with this new technology, even as their younger leaders and employees were charging full speed ahead into this brave new AI world.

The Ultimate AI Advice For Leaders: ‘Don’t Be An Ostrich’

Some organizations have tried to “outsmart” AI by just ignoring it and assuming it won’t invade their business universe. That is wrong. AI has penetrated every industry you can think of, and in my many conversations during different AI innovation workshops, business leaders and employees have already described how AI is challenging their conventional thinking and reshaping their respective industries. Moreover, it also has the potential to put them out of business—or accelerate their success and create new opportunities along the way.

My biggest advice to leaders? Simple: Get your mind in learning mode. Take a hands-on approach to tools like Microsoft Copilot, ChatGPT and as many other relevant products and approaches as you can find. Learn how they work, then start to figure out which pieces and parts are right for your business and which ones aren’t.

Getting Organized

Do this on an organizational level as well. That means evaluating the skills you and your employees will need to become AI-ready and making sure virtually every department in your organization is actively learning and experimenting responsibly. You’ll quickly find that once your employees understand the responsible use of AI, they’ll start to come up with ways to do what you do faster, better, and more efficiently.

Understanding The Risks Of AI And Steering It Responsibly

We’ve all seen the panic stories about AI, and it’s easy to fall under their spell. Many of them are valid—we’ve all heard and read stories about voice-generated AI imitating the tone and language of prominent political leaders. Celebrities have had to deal with AI-generated images compromising their reputations. Change is hard sometimes, and so is evaluating the specifics that come with this kind of technology shift.

The simple fact is that AI comes with both risks and dangers. And as valid as the risks that come with change may be, understand that inaction is probably the biggest risk. Not using AI is a significant risk if your competitors are capitalizing on its benefits, and inaction is already happening if your employees are secretly using it without a comprehensive policy in place.

To streamline adoption and incentivize responsible innovation, you need to set a clear policy about how you want to use this technology in your business, and you have to make sure that policy gets effectively backed up and enforced. There’s plenty of gray area when it comes to the ongoing use of AI, and clear, effective policy can help keep you, your employees, and your organization from getting lost in the AI fog.

Becoming An AI Pragmatist

Finally, what matters most is becoming an AI pragmatist. Over the past few months, I’ve heard dozens of amazing stories about companies that took a leap of faith, educated themselves, and are now doing incredible things with AI, accelerating the speed of innovation at a rate they couldn’t have imagined just a year or two ago.

You, too, can and should take advantage of this almost unlimited innovation potential if you approach AI the right way. To do that, execute in clear, small measurable milestones—responsibly, optimistically, and pragmatically.

This article originally appeared on on March 29, 2024


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