Artificial intelligence (AI) is not about to ‘take all our work’. On the contrary, there is alarmingly little AI being developed by Swedish companies. It is now time for change.
Aurore Belfrage - Columnist SVD Näringsliv (From ework annual report 2018)
Do not focus on the technology as such but on change
My observations are . as follows. You can’t teach old dogs new tricks. We know this. But this must not get in the way of artificial intelligence (AI). Do not focus on the technology as such but on change. Let me explain. Decision makers are often uncomfortable in their technical ignorance and this prevents them from focusing on the actual task at hand: to imagine the opportunities (and the risks) of AI. I cannot say that I understand how my mobile phone works, but this hardly prevents me from calling, surfing and sending video messages. The power of AI is only utilised once you understand the basics of how to achieve its business potential and then utilise AI to accelerate or streamline your process. Consequentially, as per usual, it is not a question of developing smart algorithms just because it is trendy right now, but to really understand in full how you can use technology to enhance your business. Think back to 2010 when the focus was on building an app without stopping to think why.
The big challenge is having to rethink and recognize the limitations of the human brain
But the big challenge is having to rethink and recognising the limitations of the human brain and your gut feeling. And then accept that decisions are made better by an intelligent computer first processing and analysing the data and facts that have been collected. Change is difficult. Harvard Business Review recently published figures that show that large companies have for the most part failed in their goal of becoming data-driven. This is the case despite increasing investments in data management and systems; 72 per cent of large companies report that they have not been able to build a corporate culture that makes decisions based on actual data. Talk about irrational. For hand on heart: how do you make decisions in your organisation? This probably starts with a notion of a particular direction, such as a strategic reorganisation. Everything sounds better by adding the prefix strategically.
Engage in high-profile consultants
The management team holds discussions on the basis of its gut feeling and its knowledge in the area. Either you delegate internally, or you engage high-profile consultants. This group uses its experience (read gut feeling), its famous network, its databases (read Google) and an award-winning two-by-two matrix to understand the pros and cons. A report is compiled and a few weeks later a proposal is presented back to the management team, which is then subject to further discussions. Decisions are made, perhaps with a Swedish consensus or as a result of the group’s strong preferences. So far this has been good enough. But those who take the step into an AI era can expand the basis of their decision to include all data that is free from any emotions, nepotism, personal ambitions and the current status. And not forgetting: in real time. In other developments, the comedian and presenter Fredrik Lindström is currently performing his new show; Humanity – The imagination of ourselves. Lindström uses humour to illustrate that we insist on believing that we are rational but that human decisions are formulated by emotions and that the brain only serves as a support function. As an AI advocate, Lindström’s performance is a gift from above. It is high time to realise that the few facts and data points that we can keep in mind hardly stands in comparison to using intelligent computers to make decisions.
Are we going to let computers take over everything? No. This is important. Let the computers do the analysis. Then use your gut feeling as your moral compass and your guideline. Change is difficult. Are you ready to step into an era of AI? The new recipe for success is a smidgeon of brain, a sprinkling of gut feeling and a bucket load of data collection that you delegate to AI. Sweden and Swedish companies cannot afford to lag behind on the global stage.
*The chronicle was previously published on 26 February 2019 in SvD’s Näringsliv business section