6 Things Leaders Should Know About Artificial Intelligence

The why...

1. Human experience + machine insight > gut feeling alone.

Intuition serves leaders well because the mind absorbs and understands more detail than we consciously know. But biases, politics, and wishful thinking sometimes distort our views. Coupling our instincts with insight produced by machines enables us to see surprising possibilities we may have otherwise ignored. This includes everything from enabling us to take a closer look at a job candidate whose alma mater we’d discounted, to identifying a revenue driver we weren't familiar with.

2. Machine models can powerfully augment our mental models.

Machine models are outperforming mental models in a growing array of cognitive tasks. This was evident in the recent defeat of Ke Jie, the world champion in the extremely complex strategy game Go, at the hands of a machine learning program created by Google. Machines’ increasing precision and capability means we can now confidently use machine models to ingest and interpret data for a variety of business purposes, while taking a “trust but verify” approach.

The how…

3. To break through without experience, start by experimenting. 

Many organizations are put off by artificial intelligence technologies because they think the costs, talent, data requirements, and risk of failure is too high. In fact, in this rapidly-evolving space, even the biggest organizations are learning the ropes and making mistakes along the way. When you’re creating a new product or strategy, you can’t beat the odds by insisting your people “do it right the first time.” If you’re cautious about getting started, identify one or a few narrow areas in your business where you can tolerate some risk, and select motivated talent you already have to lead the charge. There are a wide variety of open source tools and platforms they can use to get an early footing. 

4. Complexity is an asset, not a liability. 

Complexity means competitive advantage exists. In straightforward industries with simple rules that always work, it is difficult to find new information that can help a management team make better strategic decisions. But decisions that require fusing information from many parts of the business offer opportunities for mathematical corporations. Organizational complexity and the depth of insight available is a powerful competitive asset that you probably already have.

5. In artificial intelligence, you can create value by giving it away.

The development of artificial intelligence is a global phenomenon, bringing together academics, business leaders, and policymakers from around the world. The value of artificial intelligence goes beyond short-term returns and cost savings. This technology has the power to fundamentally change how our most important institutions make decisions. It also opens the possibility for us to address some of the world’s most pernicious problems—from income inequality to disease and environmental crises. Even the biggest technology companies are working together and sharing openly to advance artificial intelligence through initiatives like OpenAI and The Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society. Transparency, sharing, and openness will enable organizations to learn and benefit from artificial intelligence more quickly, and to take on an important role in the next technological revolution. 

6.     Honesty is always the best policy.

There is no question that as artificial intelligence becomes more prevalent in business and society, some jobs as we know them today—particularly those focused on rote tasks and labor—will eventually go away. But this should not cause a sense of doom and gloom, and it will not happen overnight. In fact, studies show that it often takes 7 to 10 years after a technology is created for it to be fully integrated in organizations—particularly technology as complex as artificial intelligence. Still, leaders must acknowledge this reality with their workforce, and begin to create strategies now on how to help affected employees  develop the skills to transition to new roles. Ultimately, being honest and transparent about the future will help to build trust and buy-in with your employees, customers, and shareholders.

Discover your blueprint to lead in the artificial intelligence era in Booz Allen’s new book The Mathematical Corporation: Where Machine Intelligence & Human Ingenuity Achieve the Impossible, available now. With unparalleled expertise on our industry-leading team of data scientists, domain experts, and consultants, Booz Allen can help your organization begin its journey of transformation using artificial intelligence.

Experts In The Field

Dr. Josh Sullivan, senior vice president at Booz Allen, and Angela Zutavern, a vice president, are radically transforming how Fortune 500 companies, not-for-profits and major government agencies perform by helping leaders shatter long-held constraints and reveal hidden truths in their organizations.