Who is driving the company’s AI Ferrari?

16 Feb 2024


Many business leaders today take a hands-off approach to artificial intelligence – like passive, trusting backseat passengers – ceding business-critical decisions to IT departments. 

With the hype of AI not receding – partly thanks to the year-long honeymoon enjoyed by the public launch of the first generative AI platform, ChatGPT – company bosses might feel compelled to let the new technology take the driving seat. 

However, given AIs vast business transformation potential, leaders must actively grab the wheel and steer, not just observe the road ahead. They must govern it actively, not simply play observer. 

The preferable approach involves governance and oversight to ensure AI aligns with, not erodes, their differentiation and value proposition. AI should act as co-pilot, not autopilot – empowering leaders with data-driven insights while relying on human judgment for the most significant decisions.

Progress demands a partnership: leaders must own strategy and governance while technologists translate this into reality. 

So, leaders should ask themselves several questions before flooring the accelerator on an AI journey. These might include: 

  • What will AI change in my business and why? 
  • What strategies underpin this adoption? 
  • How will it impact our value proposition and sources of differentiation? 
  • And, if we all adopt AI, what competitive advantage remains?

Some compare AI to acquiring a potent sports car, perhaps a Ferrari F40. Yet unmatched horsepower proves useless without governance mechanisms ensuring you reach the correct destination. AI might suggest quicker routes, but leaders must decide their competitive advantage and how technology sustains this.

With a shiny new AI Ferrari now parked in the garage, leaders face a choice: passive backseat observation or grabbing the steering wheel to drive transformation themselves.

The temptation exists to go hands-off, letting AI take complete control like self-driving cars one day might. Full automation today remains unwise for several reasons.


Risks of over-automation

Many current AI initiatives speed up processes that are, frankly, not worth accelerating. The real opportunity lies not in fixing broken processes but in discovering new sources of value. Start by integrating existing data sources rather than automatically introducing new technologies.

AI promises a paradigm change but initially offers faster horses, not jet airplanes. That second stage of the AI revolution will come, but not for a good few years. Meanwhile, expect repackaged automation before the genuinely seismic shift to autonomous intelligence. Perfect the capabilities already at hand before grasping for an ambitious, unproven future.

Leaders must also set the strategic destination and expect the route to change. AI doesnt yield a predefined path but lights the road ahead as you travel. Translate demonstrated performance, not fantasies, adopting AI incrementally while balancing ambition and reality.

Granting AI full autonomy without human oversight is tremendously risky. Automated decision-making that damages customer trust or experience kills the golden goose. Humans must govern how AI is applied for several reasons.

  1. AI lacks judgment and empathy. It optimizes isolated metrics, oblivious to customer frustration or erosion of loyalty.  
  2. Leaders must dictate strategy and company values while AI enables execution. Machines cant determine what differentiates your business or why customers choose you.
  3. AI adopts biases and assumptions without explanation. Correlation supersedes causation, with conclusions seeming arbitrary or counterintuitive. This damages adoption and trust.
  4. Automated processes spawn new roles to check their work, address blind spots, provide meaning, and course-correct strategy. Humans contextualize data.
  5. As capabilities advance, each technical leap requires corresponding maturity in leadership and process. Adopt AI incrementally rather than rushing transformation. The key message is dont rush AI transformation.

Progress demands a partnership between leaders owning strategy and governance while technologists translate this into reality. AI might optimize operations, but executives must steer strategy, uniting front-line colleagues on the journey.  


Navigating uncertainty  

Set the destination, then remain open-minded and expect the route to change, resisting handing AI total control until confident in its judgement. AI doesnt yield a predefined path but lights the road ahead as you travel.

Leaders should adopt AI incrementally while balancing ambition and reality. Translate demonstrated performance, not fantasies. Executives must lead people through the fog with vision and purpose. Provide context and meaning amid disruption.

Its clear, though, that uncertainty accompanies innovation, but paralysis remains unacceptable. When a new technology emerges, early widespread adoption means only a slight competitive advantage. However, mainstream implementation will take years if it is overly complex or risky.

AI lies somewhere in between – promising advantages but requiring careful integration. Move too slowly and risk a disadvantage. Leap too quickly and encounter great difficulty.

If simplistic, expect fast imitation dulling any edge. If truly transformational, brace for a bumpy multi-year ride. Study the road ahead and chart a balanced course before accelerating.


Driving meaningful transformation

Leaders must grab the wheel today to govern AIs road tomorrow. Passive passengers merely observe turbulence ahead, while active drivers spot risks early and steer steadily towards new horizons.

AI might suggest routes, but leaders decide on destinations. They dictate competitive advantage and how technology sustains it rather than erodes it.

Buckle up, take the wheel, and steer your AI Ferrari in the direction that creates value. With mature processes and governance in place, floor the accelerator to drive transformation.

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