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Seven Navigation Tips for a Successful AI Adoption Journey

Imagine the strategy and planning that went into NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex asteroid mission! First, NASA’s engineering team had to get the craft to the asteroid to collect samples. Second, the engineers had to figure out how to deliver samples back to Earth – while sending OSIRIS-Rex to another asteroid. 

Just like planning an expedition to an asteroid, you want to have thoughtful and intentional strategies and plans to reap the benefits of AI.

No longer is AI “something in the future” – it’s the topic of NOW. Artificial Intelligence. Generative AI. ChatGPT, Einstein GPT. Just spend a few minutes on LinkedIn, browse news sites, or notice advertising from prominent technology companies; it is clear that everyone is in explorer mode.

When historians recount this defining point in history, they will describe the triumphs and successes, the speed bumps and the roadblocks, the breakthroughs and the aha moments. Tales will be told of how the uncharted and unknown transformed into the comfortable and familiar.

You can also be pioneers and explorers while having front-row VIP seats to all the AI wonders that will unfold. Your organization’s AI adoption journey demands preparation and forethought to succeed, just like NASA needed to land on an asteroid, grab dust, and land the dust back on Earth.

To start you and your team’s journey right, I have seven tips for a successful AI journey.

1. Be the Tour Guide – Get Your Teams “AI Ready and Willing”
Humans naturally oppose and resist change. Many fear AI will replace human jobs, leading to unemployment and economic instability. Significant, fast, and disruptive technological changes can prove shocking and exciting, depending upon one’s perspective.

Think for example, when personal computers became commonplace in companies. What actually happened? Companies started using personal computers widely, developed new ways of doing work, and encountered different problems to solve. Companies and their employees rose to the occasion with new economically viable roles, such as software developers and hardware designers.

When you embark on the AI journey, your employees will respond in various ways. Therefore, your organization will need an intentional plan to empower the innovators and early adopters who lead the charge and encourage others to join the AI journey. Don’t forget to engage with your less enthusiastic colleagues as well. Understanding their concerns (some of which are on this blog’s list!) will offer insight into how and what to communicate and identify the support, training, and guidance needed.

2. Check Your GPS Position – Foster Understanding and Awareness
One of the primary challenges to AI adoption is the lack of understanding and awareness among individuals and organizations. AI technology can be complex, and many struggle to grasp its full potential and capabilities. This lack of understanding often leads to skepticism and reluctance to embrace AI solutions.

AI has the potential to serve as a positive force and offer your company many strategic advantages – from operational efficiencies to better decision-making to freeing your employees from mundane data tasks to engaging and servicing customers with basic support.
Your pioneering spirit sees the path that will yield results, yet you must map out the path for your organization.
As with any new technology, the newness is often scary, but be sure to double down on demystifying AI through hands-on, real-world experimentation and exploration. Collaborate with your technology leaders and operational teams to build a personalized approach to engaging your employees.

Some ideas to get you started include:
– Host Hack-a-Thons to experiment with ChatGPT, AI image creators, and other AI products
– Invite your AI promoters at your company to offer demos
– Encourage teams to explore how AI is being incorporated into Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, or other technology vendors that you use.
– Encourage leaders to attend AI conferences and bring back ideas to share.

3. Fuel for the Journey – Integration with Existing Systems
Integrating AI technology with existing systems and infrastructure can be a complex process. Legacy systems may not be compatible with AI solutions, forcing significant changes or investments in infrastructure upgrades. This integration challenge can slow down the adoption of AI, particularly for established companies with long-standing systems.

Your organizations have integrated new technologies before – and AI is another new technology. Remember when the internet was new and the concerns about making it available and affordable to the average consumer? Remember when ERP systems were new and companies invested lots of resources in them? AI technology is still a technology investment that, if well thought out, will enable companies to derive significant value, enable more creativity, serve customers in new ways, and create new career pathways that we do not have today.

Start shifting mindsets with some ideas such as:

  • Reach out to your technology vendors and explore how they are approaching AI
  • Build in strategy conversations with leadership about AI opportunities
  • Brainstorm with operations teams to uncover inefficiencies that AI could address
  • Develop an intentional upskilling plan to anticipate changing roles

4. Pack a First Aid Kit so You Won’t Need It – Data Privacy and Security
Another significant hurdle to AI adoption concerns data privacy and security. AI relies heavily on vast data to train its algorithms and make accurate predictions. However, collecting and storing sensitive data raises concerns about potential breaches and misuse. Organizations and individuals are hesitant to share their data, fearing it might fall into the wrong hands.

Ensuring that your data is secure and privacy is enforced are legitimate and necessary challenges to address in the AI adoption process. As a leader, ensure that the conversations about the benefits of AI are clearly and intentionally coupled with the practical need for access to large amounts of data.
While experimenting and exploring how AI can drive efficiencies, remember to consult your naysayers because they can help you identify blindspots or opportunities as well.

Starting points could be:

  • Invite your data security team to AI strategy and experimentation Hack-a-Thons
  • Engage your data security team to identify and understand how AI will change the security landscape
  • Adopt ways to update data and security policies to align with the rapid evolution of AI

5. Plan Your Travel Budget – Cost of Implementation and Maintenance
Implementing AI systems can be a costly endeavor. The infrastructure, software, and skilled professionals required to develop and maintain AI solutions require significant financial outlays. This cost often deters organizations, especially small businesses, from adopting AI technology.
Just like any other technology investment, the key is to consider whether existing technologies in your organization could easily transition to using AI. Your organization has invested in technology and there may be ready-made opportunities to apply AI.

 Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Leverage existing vendor relationships with ERP, HR, or CRM vendors and find out their plans for using AI
  •  Examine technology investment and maintenance budgets for opportunities to transition to AI in strategic and cost-effective ways

6. Buy Trip Insurance – Ethical and Legal Implications
AI technology raises ethical and legal concerns that can impede its adoption. Issues such as bias in algorithms, job displacements, and accountability for AI decisions must be addressed. The lack of clear regulations and guidelines surrounding AI deployment creates uncertainty and hampers its widespread acceptance.

Most organizations have stated values that reflect what is most important to them. AI is no different from past technology advances. A thoughtful evaluation of the impacts of AI is needed to ensure values are clear and applied fairly and appropriately.
Leaders must help their teams and organizations stay grounded in the company’s values and business realities. Take the time necessary to review policies and procedures in light of AI adoption and bake in boundaries and guidelines.
Some examples include:
– Clearly state what your organization values about creativity, innovation, and human/machine interaction.
– Affirm intellectual property rights and offer guidance about what is acceptable or unrelated to AI.
– Seek legal counsel where appropriate and keep in mind that AI is an emerging technology, meaning gray areas are guaranteed to exist for a time.

 7. You Have Limited Packing Space! – Technical Limitations
Despite its rapid advancements, AI still faces technical limitations that hinder its adoption. AI algorithms often struggle with ambiguity and context, making it challenging to perform complex tasks humans can easily handle. Developing AI systems that can understand and interpret real-world scenarios accurately remains a significant challenge for the foreseeable future.
AI’s technical limitations offer both challenges and benefits. 

It is still early in the AI revolution, and it will take time for the technology to mature. That means there’s still time to think through business and operational issues and drive how AI can transform your business. 

During these early days of the AI journey, build in the enablers and the guardrails to fuel adoption for your organization. 

Think about ways to:

  • Engage in identifying complex processes that could be augmented with AI or re-envisioned entirely
  • Establish a network within your organization of AI adopters who can help observe AI developments and scan for new developments, opportunities, or threats
  • Maintain open communication with users and stakeholders about how your organization will use AI.

Have a great trip!

Just like NASA prepares to explore the Solar System with unmanned and manned spacecraft, you too need to be prepared before guiding your team along the AI journey. With these seven navigation tips, you are prepared to start your journey and discover how best to adopt AI in your organization.

I would love to hear from you with other AI adoption journey tips or to help you along your journey. Reach out to me, at bhedger@thinkampersand.com

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