Adam Brotman
April 17, 2024

Unpacking the AI Paradox: Strategic Insights for Business Leaders

Over the past year, my co-founder, Andy Sack, and I have interviewed the top business leaders and AI influencers to understand the impact of AI in business. Our journey involved countless interviews, along with deep dives into blogs, research papers, podcasts, and books focused on generative AI. This exploration sought to answer pivotal questions: What is generative AI? How is it shaping the business landscape? What practical applications does it currently offer?

My co-founder, Andy Sack, and I have spent the better part of the last year interviewing top business leaders in the AI space, along with AI influencers, and literally hundreds of business leaders, marketers and brand builders. We have read blogs, research papers, consumed podcasts, read books - all on the subject of generative AI. What is it? Where is going? What is the technical and business landscape? What can it realistically do now?

And we are noticing something very interesting. I’ll call it the ‘AI Opportunity’ - because that sounds better- but it’s actually a bit of an AI Paradox. And it’s worth unpacking for a moment, and talking about what to do about it.

With the advent of cutting-edge AI models like ChatGPT4 (which has only been around for just over a year, if you can believe that!) business leaders and brand builders find themselves at a fascinating yet perplexing crossroads. The buzz surrounding AI is inescapable, with promises of transformative potential echoing in boardrooms, social media, and marketing meetings alike. However, beneath the surface, a paradox emerges: while these leaders recognize the importance of leveraging AI, they often find themselves not doing anything to truly get after this opportunity, often due to a lack of deep understanding of how to harness its true power beyond basic applications. Thus the current disconnect between the perceived potential of AI vs actually building an AI game plan. 

Many business leaders are familiar with using AI for tasks such as writing blog posts, crafting emails, or generating job descriptions. While these applications are undoubtedly time saving and useful, they merely scratch the surface of what AI can truly achieve. The real transformative power lies in AI's ability to generate ideas, aid in decision-making, strategize, and plan—capabilities that remain largely untapped by most organizations. And that’s before even tapping into AI’s ability to be integrated into a company’s products, services and UX in ways that unlock entirely new business models, growth opportunities, and potentially massive cost savings.

This paradox often stems from a lack of AI literacy and proficiency among business leaders and brand builders. They are acutely aware that they should be doing more to leverage AI, but they don't know what they don't know. They lack the foundational understanding in order to even know what questions to ask.  

And it’s no wonder. The rapid pace of AI development has left many struggling to keep up with the latest advancements, such as the most recent versions of AI models, what their capabilities are (and are not), what they are good at, bad at, and everything in between. Just as importantly, most business leaders find it hard to stay current with (or even understand) the significance of multi-modality, context window size, the latest legal and ethical debates on all aspects of this space, etc. Moreover, even if they had the AI literacy and proficiency in place, most organizations often lack the necessary AI governance, policies, and educational initiatives to ensure a smooth and effective integration of AI into their operations.

As a result, business leaders find themselves in a state of paralysis. They are eager to embark on AI-driven initiatives, such as developing roadmaps or launching pilots, but without the proper foundations in place, they are unable to move forward confidently. This paradox can lead to missed opportunities, inefficient resource allocation, and a general sense of frustration among decision-makers.

To break free from this paradoxical state and transition into action, business leaders and brand builders must seek guidance from experts who can provide a holistic approach to AI adoption. Leaders should seek out the necessary help with foundational aspects, such as AI literacy training for leaders, designating an AI leader or council within the organization, and developing an appropriate AI policy tailored to the company's specific needs and goals.

Once these foundational elements are in place, organizations can then focus on creating a comprehensive AI roadmap and identifying key AI pilots to pursue. The roadmap should align with the company's overall strategic objectives and take into account the unique challenges and opportunities presented by AI. Pilots should be carefully selected based on their potential impact, feasibility, and alignment with the organization's core competencies.

Best practices for navigating this AI paradox involve a multi-faceted approach. First and foremost, ensuring that leaders are well-versed in the basics of generative AI is crucial. This knowledge will empower them to make informed decisions and communicate effectively with both internal and external stakeholders. Designating an AI leader or council within the organization can provide a centralized point of expertise and guidance, ensuring consistent and cohesive AI initiatives across departments.

Furthermore, developing an AI policy that addresses ethical considerations, data privacy, and governance is essential. This policy should be tailored to the organization's specific needs and should evolve alongside the rapidly changing AI landscape. By establishing clear guidelines and protocols, companies can mitigate risks and ensure responsible AI deployment.

This paradox moment of AI presents both challenges, but mostly opportunities, for business leaders and brand builders. By acknowledging the current state of confusion and taking proactive steps to bridge the gap between perception and reality, organizations can unlock the true potential of AI. Seeking expert guidance, establishing strong foundations, and developing comprehensive AI roadmaps and pilots are key to navigating this paradox successfully. As AI continues to evolve at an unprecedented pace, those who embrace the challenge and adapt accordingly will be well-positioned to reap the benefits of this transformative technology. They will have a running start, while those that stay paralyzed will find themselves getting left behind.

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