AI is general purpose technology that’s growing exponentially. The result is a growing gap between the proactive innovators and the ‘wait and see’ crowd. The time to start your business on its AI journey is today…or it may be too late.
I deeply appreciate nuance. The world is a complicated place and many aspects always need to be considered before acting. AI technologies are a prime example of a topic that should be handled with more nuance. However, for this article I am going to set nuance aside.
There is a clear and urgent message that needs to get across to the majority of businesses and it cannot be a nuanced one.
Here it is.
Do everything you can do, from today, to go all in on your use of AI technologies. Yes, it’s an obvious thing for a vendor of such technologies to say, I realise that. But if you can set aside my bias and hear me out, there’s a lot to learn.
The are two key concepts that should drive your decision making and supersede any other issues.
First, AI is a General Purpose Technology (a GPT). This means that its impact will be felt across all aspects of how we work and live. It puts it in the same category as steam and electricity. When such technologies come along the conditions are created for large change that defines an era.
Would you rather be the business that moves their goods on the railways or stick to cart and mules?
Second, AI is an exponential technology. It is not just moving fast. It is accelerating. This means that those that adopt it are also accelerating as well. Studies show that the effects of AI adoption can be dramatic. The early adopters are creating a positive feedback loop that is enabling them to accelerate while the rest are, in essence, decelerating. This only makes the divide bigger.
The Conversational AI Divide
We talk a lot about how AI is going to change professions and take jobs and cause upheaval. How it will affect us individually. All of that is true. What we talk less about is how it is going to directly affect entire businesses and render some irrelevant either because what they do is no longer required, or because they are not able to compete due to lack of innovation. Let’s consider what the difference looks like.
The ‘Wait and See’ Crowd
On the one side you have the ‘wait and see’ crowd. The wait and see crowd have profitable, well established businesses that feel rock solid. Sure they have challenges, but who doesn’t? Yes, customers are finding it hard to get in touch and get their problems resolved. Scaling is a challenge as the costs seem to constantly spiral out of control. In addition, there is no reliable data about any of this as it is spread across different channels and systems.
However, the business is profitable. It’s even growing a bit. After all, the ‘wait and see’ crowd is not against innovation. There is some great stuff happening in the innovation lab. There is always something new around the corner, as you can’t immediately hop on every new technology trend after all.
The ‘Proactive Innovators’ Crowd
On the other hand you have the ‘proactive innovators’ crowd. They’ve been eagerly adopting technologies. They’ve been automating conversations and collecting data. They’ve stumbled a few times. The ‘wait and see’ crowd had a bit of a laugh at their expense even. Those early conversational automation experiences were not the best.
Recently, however, there have been fewer occasions where others were joking at their expense. Turns out the proactive innovators are scaling fast. It seems that they are able to both control costs and onboard more customers. It feels like they can almost predict what the most important next thing is going to be.
Automation technologies are allowing them to scale with ease and the data they’re collecting enables them to focus on what is the most important thing. As AI technologies are accelerating in capability so is their company as well.
Crossing the Gap
Crossing the gap from the ‘wait and see’ crowd to the ‘proactive innovator’ crowd can be challenging but it is entirely possible.
In the face of an exponential, general purpose technology crossing the gap is necessary.
The models and timeframes that made sense a few years ago no longer apply.
The good news is that technologies are much more mature, so starting on the journey should be simpler than a few years ago. But the time to act really is now. Starting now means that you can think things through properly and deal with the nuance of your specific challenges. Delaying any longer may mean the gap becomes too large to cross.