What AI-Powered Organizations Do Differently To Win

The spread of AI is disrupting industries, making skills redundant and displacing workers. But the good news is, it has opened a window of opportunity for organizations to scale, improve productivity and reap tremendous economic gains


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About 100 years ago, electricity revolutionized every industry in its wake, changing how we live, travel and communicate. Today, a new force is transforming our world in the same fundamental way. Computer Scientist Andrew Ng, Founder of and Coursera, calls Artificial Intelligence the new electricity. He believes AI has advanced to the point where it has the power to transform. Like electricity, AI’s applications are potentially limitless, sweeping across industries and touching every part of our lives. But unlike a century ago, the AI-powered revolution is spreading at a rapid pace. With consequences, we may not be prepared for. “In services, there is a little bit of a race between globalization and AI. Some of the services opportunities will be foreclosed,” Nobel Laureate, Economist Paul Krugman predicted at News 18’s recent Rising India Summit. 

Prof. Krugman offered an example of AI’s potential threat to India’s thriving services sector – in a globalized world, you can find someone in New York to interpret medical data, or you can give the job to someone in India at one-third of the same wage. Or, as he pointed out, the data could be interpreted by an expert system. 

The spread of AI is disrupting industries, making skills redundant and displacing workers. But the good news is, it has opened a window of opportunity for organizations to scale, improve productivity and reap tremendous economic gains. Between now and 2030, AI will create an estimated $13 trillion of GDP growth. 

According to McKinsey, front runners, who adopt and absorb AI across their enterprises over the next five to seven years will benefit disproportionately to non-adopters, potentially doubling their cash flow by 2030. With so much at stake, decision-makers have to astutely identify where and how to apply AI. The number one question for business leaders we work with is how to align long-term business strategy with today’s AI capabilities. An AI-powered future can only be built by both engineers and domain experts. In an organization, this requires concerted thinking about AI.  

Not just for engineers: Scaling AI in your enterprise

Given how sought after AI skills are in India and globally, it’s no surprise that AI and machine learning courses are highly in demand with India’s tech talent. But here’s a more recent, encouraging trend. We are now seeing a broad-based interest in AI among Indian learners. Since its launch on February 27, 2019, AI for Everyone has become the second most popular Coursera course in India, in line with the global trend. 

Entrepreneurs, product managers, and marketing professionals have all signed up to understand how they can apply AI to real-world problems or customer issues they are trying to solve. AI is not just for technologists, scientists, and engineers. For businesses, scaling an understanding of AI across the organization is crucial for a sustainable AI strategy. 

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer took a people-first approach to deploy AI, with a “business-driven view.” Deloitte spotlighted the company’s speed and efforts in scaling up the technology in the article  AI-fueled organization, Besides ramping up AI talent in-house, Pfizer offered AI training across the board to help business executives understand what is possible with AI (and as importantly, what it cannot solve.) More than 1,000 employees went through AI boot camps in 2018. As Pfizer’s example shows, this cannot be an isolated journey for an organization’s IT or digital team. 

Whether you are a product manager, salesperson, financier, or health professional, an understanding of how to apply AI to your work, or to problems in your organization can help surface potential use case and opportunities to deploy the right technology, for the right gains. Designers, for instance, will be able to create AI systems with a ‘human-centered approach’, so the new kind of AI-powered interactions are based on the user's needs. Marketers could apply AI to fine-tune ad targeting and personalization at scale. 

CEOs and business leaders have to not just understand how AI adds value to the business, but also the ethical and privacy issues surrounding the technology. If not considered, these could offset the gains, leading to a loss of reputation, backlash from customers or even internally from employees. 

Preparing for a new future of work

Advances in AI, automation and the churn in skills – underpinned by the fast pace of technological change – require a new approach to workforce development. Organizations now have to adopt a sustained and comprehensive approach to retraining their talent. Continuous upskilling, however, is not just for tech talent or those currently impacted. Neither is understanding the potential of new technologies. I see both these as crucial enablers for workers to stay relevant, irrespective of their discipline, function or level. 

AI and emerging tech require multidisciplinary thinking and creative ideas from every corner of an organization, to move beyond being technical possibilities. We have to adapt to this new, always-changing future of work. A collaborative mindset where domain and AI experts work together will drive impact and results for businesses, delivering what just became possible in an AI-powered world.    

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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