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  • Writer's pictureLynda Koster

Leading in the AI Era: A Strategic Guide for Business and Marketing Leaders

Robot holding business people in its hands

Excitement, curiosity, and a state of concern are the typical responses I receive when discussing the future, especially as it relates to AI. For some, AI can be a source of anxiety, while for others, it represents an opportunity. It elicits a variety of conflicting feelings that can change depending on one's personal circumstances or even just the day. As a business owner, marketing leader, and global citizen, I can relate to all of these sentiments.

Like many of you, I have been immersed in exploring generative AI since the release of ChatGPT last November. This pivotal day is etched in my memory. It reminds me of the time when 'How to Create a Mind' by Ray Kurzweil was published, when MOOCs began offering Natural Language Processing Courses, and when the Maker Movement was gaining momentum alongside discussions of closing out the third industrial revolution, which was characterized by digitalization and automation. These events created an incredible energy that is hard to explain. Now, as we continue to fuel the fourth industrial revolution with a deeper level of intelligence, that energy remains palpable, and the pace is only accelerating. Buckle up.

So, how do business and marketing leaders brace themselves for this current inflection point, particularly when regulatory bodies are still wrestling with it? In this fast-paced environment of constant change, how can leaders equip their businesses and teams for the journey ahead? Here are some strategies that we have found beneficial so far:

It’s Not Too Late: Articulate Your Strategic Vision for AI Even if the Path is Unknown and Being Disrupted

Amid an onslaught of news and updates, it's crucial to recognize that the field of AI is still in its early stages and continuously evolving. Last week alone, it was reported that Apple has been buildingApple GPT,” Microsoft stock closed at a record high after their AI related Announcements, Meta announced it is planning to provide the code behind their latest AI technology, Llama2, to developers and software enthusiasts around the world free of charge, and the White House worked with seven major AI companies to build guardrails into the development of their technologies. All this while Hollywood actors continued to strike over higher pay and pushed to tighten regulations on the use of artificial intelligence in creative projects. Not to mention the continued coverage of Sarah Silverman’s lawsuit against OpenAI and Meta for copyright infringement. And then there are the innovations that continue to pour into my newsfeed.

While things are certain to continue to change, establishing a clear strategic vision for AI within your organization is crucial. This vision serves as a guiding light, providing your team members with a sense of purpose and direction in these evolving times. More than just a guide, this strategic vision cultivates a climate of confidence, reassuring internal stakeholders and external clients that your organization is not just responding to the transformative AI landscape but is also proactively preparing to navigate it. Regardless of the shifts that the future of AI may bring, your firm's initial stake in the ground demonstrates your dedication to understanding the AI sector, its potential effects on your own business, as well as your clients', and your commitment to remain at the forefront of this space.

My business partner Chris and I have started by communicating our vision to our team, ensuring that it aligns with our mission, vision, and founding principles as we recognize the increasingly important role that AI is playing in all of our lives.

Establish a Working Framework and Prioritize Your AI Objectives Based on Where You’re at Today

Understanding the breadth and potential of AI applications is critical. This understanding can be fostered by developing a working framework that clearly outlines your AI objectives. This, along with setting your strategic priorities, will help align your team. It's also important not to overlook the implications of potential delays in developing this framework. These delays can impact not only the business but also the morale and performance of talent within the organization, not to mention the perceptions of external stakeholders.

My recommendation is to be realistic based on where you and your stakeholders are in their AI journey. Do not overengineer this framework. The important thing here is to get started and set a foundation. Then you can iterate and optimize based on the results of your short- and longer-term assignments to incorporate your learnings and feedback loops.

Implement Practical Guidance and Initiate a Focused Governance Model

As regulators and leaders grapple with AI management, the masses continue to tighten their grip on the reins of this technology. Therefore, it's imperative to be proactive and establish a governance model tailored to your organization. Initiating a governance model that offers your team practical, actionable guidance will increasingly become a key aspect of AI management. Although this model is dynamic and subject to evolution in tandem with the changing AI landscape, it serves as an invaluable reference point, marking your organization's position on its AI journey. Such knowledge is essential not just for your team but for all those you engage with, from business partners to stakeholders.

Enabling Continuous Learning: Education and Practical Application in AI

Equipping your team with the most recent insights and resources on AI is integral to your organization's development journey. It's essential to create an environment that values continuous learning, from leveraging educational and onboarding resources, to hosting interactive workshops. We have found that augmenting educational resources with custom worksheets focused on practical application is helping provide digestible learning pathways. By cultivating a culture of curiosity and knowledge-seeking, you're enabling your team to stay at the forefront of AI development. As mentioned in a previous post titled, Helping Today's Marketer Navigate Technology in Their Ever-Expanding Role, I’d recommend starting with Piloting AI for Marketers Series if you're a marketer.

Fostering Innovation: Stand Up an AI Incubator

It's widely understood that promoting experimentation within an organization can lead to innovations that significantly impact the organization's trajectory. Allocating dedicated time and resources so your team can delve into AI possibilities provides the ideal environment for such creativity to flourish. Whether your exploration involves internal efforts, collaborations with strategic partners, or a combination of both, determining this aspect is crucial if you haven't done so already.

Balancing AI with the Requirements of Human Input: Honoring Your Team’s Expertise

The rapid pace of digital transformation can sometimes overshadow the human component required. While AI tools can undoubtedly enhance our work and create efficiency, it is equally important to recognize the invaluable focus, diligence, learning, subject matter expertise, and strategic planning that go into establishing AI within an organization. Demonstrating empathy, attentiveness, and this understanding, will significantly influence the implementation of your AI strategy. Despite the technological advancements, understanding and honoring the work that goes into everyone's contribution remains paramount.

Navigating the Transformative Era: Embracing the Weirdness of the AI Journey

Before ending this post, I wanted to share a quote I have kept at my desk for the past decade that resonates with me. It is from Professor Ian McCarthy, the W.J. VanDusen Professor of Innovation and Operations Management at Simon Frazier University:

“To identify, create or cope with discontinuous change helps if you have:

  • The right mindset and appetite for weirdness

  • An appropriate approach to environmental scanning

  • An ability to create or respond to environmental ‘disruptions’

  • Use and learn from escalating experiments”

As we navigate this transformative era, staying adaptable, agile, and ready for change is crucial. By keeping our minds open, fostering a learning environment, and positioning ourselves for the "weirdness" of the AI journey, we can prepare to leverage the full potential of this pivotal technology. As we come to terms with the realities, implications, and potential of AI, it's crucial that we honor the human spirit, expertise, and capacity for creativity that will guide us through this evolution. Remember, even as we employ advanced AI tools, our human ingenuity remains at the heart of innovation and success. So, let's prepare, stay curious, and embrace the adventure ahead.

Interested in learning more about our AI Strategic Suite offering to help you along this journey? Reach out to us at Growthential for more information.


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