Do This One Thing If You Wish To AI-Enable Your Company In 2023:
You very likely know by now that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming most industries. Whether you work in healthcare, manufacturing, marketing, finance, entertainment, retail, transportation, creative fields like writing, music, art, or any other discipline, AI is changing the business landscape. Soon it will be as impactful as the Internet or the smartphone, and it is here now.
Are you prepared for this tsunami? If AI does not feature in your 2023 strategic plan, you will be left behind. The history of business is littered with successful companies that became irrelevant because they were slow to adapt to a changing world. The next generation of winners will be the companies that use AI to improve efficiency, reduce costs, enhance customer experiences, make better decisions, increase productivity and create new offerings. So, if you don’t have AI anywhere on your 2023 business plan, you need to revisit it and understand the value these powerful technologies can bring.
AI is the ability of machines to think, predict and behave like humans. And just like humans, AI can be trained and it can get better at tasks. AI is already ubiquitous; you use it when you use maps, voice assistants, social media, or music streaming services or see ads or marketing content. There are countless consumer and enterprise applications using machine learning, robotics, computer vision, and other emerging technologies. And it is growing faster than you think. It took a mere five days for ChatGPT, an offering that makes the power of AI accessible and easy to use by everyone, to cross one million users, the fastest adoption rate of any new technology.
If you are serious about pivoting your company to become an early adopter of AI, the single most essential thing you can do is get your entire organization to share in your belief that AI will change everything. Once your organization shares your belief, it will become much easier to pivot, adapt and take advantage of these new technologies. You can only turn on a dime when everyone is turning in the same direction.
We know this because not too long ago, corporations had to do the same thing when the Internet came around. Some companies did a great job of adopting the then-nascent Internet technologies, while others were not so successful at it. Probably the best case you can learn from is how Microsoft adopted the Internet. Very few companies did a better job of reorienting a large and complex organization than Microsoft. How Microsoft committed to the Internet some twenty years ago remains an excellent case study for companies considering adopting AI.
How Microsoft adopted the Internet:
In 1995, although Microsoft wasn’t nearly as large as it is today, it was still a formidable company with approximately 20,000 employees and revenues approaching $8 billion. The company was riding at the top of a great wave it helped create, often called the PC revolution. As a large and rapidly growing company for which it seemed no obstacle was insurmountable, it could have easily developed tunnel vision and continued pushing along its course. However, for the past year or two, there had increasingly been rumblings outside of Microsoft about something that was becoming popular in universities: the Internet. These were the early days of the Internet, and although it had few users, it was growing in popularity. The company began to take notice.
The Microsoft CEO at the time, Bill Gates, sent out a landmark memo asking his executive team to bet the company on the Internet. He labeled it “The Internet Tidal Wave.” In it, he shared his prescient view that every PC would soon be connected to the Internet and outlined the risks to Microsoft if it did not fully embrace the new technology. Many companies in Microsoft’s position could have done too little or been too late to change, instead continuing happily down their current highly profitable path. Yet Gates saw the risks with the coming change, and in his memo, he prescribed a plan for every division of the company to bet on the Internet—not in a small way but to go all in. He laid out specific recommendations and actions that each part of the company should take to embrace this new tidal wave.
Almost overnight, Microsoft went from having no Internet capabilities in its products to embracing the Internet in everything it did. As we know today, the Internet did indeed change everything. Microsoft, starting with the memo written by its CEO, established a shared belief across the company that the entire organization needed to make significant changes and embrace a new way of thinking to stay relevant. Today, almost thirty years later, Microsoft is stronger than ever and remains the second most valuable company in the world.
Are you ready to make your bet?
Adopting AI will be no different from embracing the Internet. You can’t tip-toe your way in; you must commit and go all-in. Everybody in your organization needs to share the same belief and share the same level of urgency, and this culture shift has to start from the top. Can you do what Gates did and challenge the various teams in your organization to think about how they can AI-enable their department? This act alone will lead to a culture promoting innovation and allow you to create applications of this new and powerful technology. You don’t have a choice; your business can’t afford to be an AI laggard