In business, it seems like artificial intelligence (AI) is painted as either the great white hope or the big bad wolf. There is very little middle ground. This polarization can contribute to inertia and paralysis when it comes to leveraging AI for business strategy development. Simply put, CEOs do not have a sense of urgency regarding AI, and this attitude is putting them behind the proverbial eight ball as competitors adopt AI as a strategic tool.
Skepticism of AI to guide business strategy is rooted in an overall tendency to preserve the status quo. Doing nothing is always the easiest remedy, but obviously it is not always the best decision. How can business leaders get out of the starting blocks and embrace the value AI can bring to their strategic direction? We asked 15 CEOs to share their perspectives and their answers may surprise you.
Unlike FOMO (fear of missing out) and FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt), the fear of inaction is an outgrowth of fear about the future of your business, your role, and your company’s competitive advantage. Senior leaders are fearful: Is AI going to take my job?
Business leaders shouldn’t be afraid of AI taking their jobs; they should be concerned about the person next to them figuring out how to master AI before they do. But before your concern paralyzes your decision-making, consider what we have learned from our research.
Most of our respondents (more than 70 percent) used AI tools like ChatGPT “regularly” or “occasionally.” However, among nearly 30 percent of respondents, we found that these CEOs were aware of AI, but had not used it.
Overall, CEOs understand the importance of engaging with AI. According to a Fortune/Deloitte poll, 75% of CEOs are convinced that AI investments can help automate manual operations.
What is the source of fear regarding AI for business? Fears most often stem from security concerns (is my data safe?), competitive advantage (if my competitor is doing this, then am I too late?), and a lack of understanding about how AI can be applied to common business tasks.
AI uses advanced artificial intelligence algorithms to address complex business and logistical challenges. The two different types of AI most often used in business are Generative AI and Predictive AI.
Generative AI utilizes sophisticated modeling to create images, text, video, or code based on user prompts. ChatGPT is a type of Generative AI. Predictive AI, in contrast, uses large data sets to recognize and reveal patterns across time. Predictive AI applications can draw conclusions, suggest outcomes, and predict future trends. Popular business and sales software suites often include Predictive AI.
In the Fortune/Deloitte poll, 56% of respondents said they were experimenting with or evaluating Generative AI solutions, while 40% said the same for Predictive AI. While this level of adoption is encouraging, the high percentage of business leaders NOT using AI means there is still room for education.
Business analysts agree: AI will create tremendous value for businesses in the coming years and decades. A report from PricewaterhouseCoopers projects AI will contribute $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030. McKinsey also found that AI has the potential to automate work activities that absorb 60-70% of employee time. According to McKinsey, the departments most poised for increases in productivity due to AI are customer operations, software engineering, marketing, and sales.
AI has tremendous potential to increase productivity. Electronic notetaking, auto-generated meeting summaries, workflows, task lists, marketing email campaigns are just some of the ways businesses can harness Generative AI to improve employee productivity, so teams can think strategically without worrying about process-oriented tasks.
Marketing and Sales
Many AI tools – both generative and predictive – are focused on supporting marketing and sales, a very labor-intensive function that has been made easier in recent years by automation and robust CRM products. Today, these CRM solutions often have built-in AI tools for copywriting, chart and graph creation, assessing keywords, and creating customer insights based on predictive analytics.
In addition to sales and marketing support, Generative AI can help stem the endless churn of customer email campaign development. Simple ChatGPT prompts can create email drips designed to reach prospects and customers at all stages of the buyer’s journey.
For example, consider a campaign to lost customers – you can prompt ChatGPT to draft a series of emails with increasing degrees of urgency, or emails that reveal new insights or assets. This eliminates the need for a staff person to draft and edit dozens of email campaigns designed to run concurrently.
Additional uses for AI include:
In Q4 2023, we led a workshop for 15 CEOs to gauge their familiarity with and interest in AI as a business tool. We tried to gauge their understanding of available AI tools, their sense of urgency in adopting AI for business, and basic AI strategies and practices. Then, we walked the group through specific ways they could adopt AI quickly and efficiently.
Following the workshop, in a post-workshop survey, we asked participants whether they had improved their understanding of AI capabilities and whether they plan to implement all or some of the recommendations we shared. The results showed an overwhelming desire among CEOs to embrace AI and leverage it to benefit their business goals.
Among the skills workshop attendees gained, discovering new AI applications and technologies ranked highest (almost 72%), then new prompts for using ChatGPT (57%), and learning the ethical and privacy implications of AI deployment (30%).
With a greater understanding of AI and its potential for outsized impact on business performance, workshop participants got past the fear of inaction and learned that embracing AI does not require as much handwringing as they once thought. They learned that an incremental approach is possible, and they learned that the cost of AI tools is far less than the cost of hiring a copywriter or an analyst. But most importantly, they learned how to implement specific AI strategies that will drive immediate business results.
The future is bright for AI in business. There is no need to be fearful if you are prepared.