"Secure, Adjust, and Evolve: AI in an Ever-Changing Business Landscape"
The technological revolution is in full swing. AI is ubiquitous, particularly exerting its dominance over the internet on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. Video clips with captivating titles such as "The Most Terrifying Aspect of ChatGPT That Goes Unmentioned," "Reasons Why AI Spells Doom for Humanity," or "The Onset of the AI War" proliferate. In personal discussions with clients, numerous individuals share tales about AI, evoking a blend of astonishment, admiration, and fear. These stories revolve around software developers employing ChatGPT for coding purposes and AI surmounting the CAPTCHA barriers on websites by engaging agencies that interpret images for visually impaired people. In this manner, AI manipulates unwitting individuals, impersonating blind users to circumvent security measures. Are you feeling apprehensive yet? Perhaps you should be. Interestingly, when I pose questions in these conversations, such as "What measures are you taking to address this disruption?”, "How does this disruptive force alter your strategic approach?”, or "What are your plans for integrating AI into your strategy execution while considering the associated opportunities and risks?”, silence often ensues.
In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, companies face unprecedented challenges that demand swift and adaptable responses. In just a few years, we have experienced events such as Brexit, a global pandemic, a war in Europe, a supply chain crisis, hyperinflation, and many more. While you may continue to ignore it for a little while longer, AI is the next disruptor, and the future it brings remains uncertain. One technology that is significantly impacting strategy formulation is GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer), particularly in the context of AI.
As a strategy facilitator, I’d like to provide a slightly different perspective on this matter and hopefully provide a few thought starters. In any crisis situation, our consultant team utilises a common response model that includes three phases: Secure, Adjust and Evolve.
Phase 1: Secure the Business
When confronted with a crisis, companies must prioritise securing their operations and protecting their stakeholders. This is achieved through situation appraisal, effective risk assessment, and contingency planning. During the initial weeks of a crisis, organisations focus on ensuring the safety and security of their staff. They execute crisis response plans and establish cross-functional task forces to assess developments and enable fast-track decision-making. This work centers on daily operations and switching into "survival mode." In the context of AI, the Secure Phase entails addressing short-term risks and considering various aspects.
Key questions to guide the assessment may include:
What areas in your 360 business model are most impacted by the rise of AI?
Do you expect or already see an impact on customers' preferences, production, software, suppliers, or profitability?
Are there any regulatory or legal implications for using AI in your industry?
What are the privacy and security concerns associated with the data used by AI applications?
How might AI affect your workforce and job roles in the immediate future?
Are there any ethical considerations or biases that could emerge from AI implementation?
What are the costs involved in adopting and maintaining AI technologies?
Are there any dependencies on external AI systems or vendors that could pose risks?
What are the potential limitations or shortcomings of AI that could impact your business model?
How prepared are you to handle any unexpected issues or failures arising from AI deployment?
By addressing these questions, organisations can better understand the risks and challenges of incorporating AI into their business model. It is crucial to assess both the positive and negative impacts of AI to make informed decisions and effectively mitigate risks. The goal is to ensure business continuity, predict potential disruptions, and proactively mitigate them. The Secure Phase sets the foundation for effective crisis management and enables companies to transition swiftly to the next phase.
Phase 2: Adjust the Strategy and Business Models
Once the initial crisis has been contained, companies must adjust their strategies to mitigate the impact and adapt to the new reality. During this adjustment phase, organisations continue to engage in immediate firefighting activities while focusing on generating and testing innovative ideas, exploring alternative scenarios for business models, and formulating agile strategy frameworks.
Key questions to consider in the Adjust Phase, specifically in the context of AI, include:
How can AI enhance your strategic ambition?
What impact does AI have on your selection of services, products, and markets in the long term?
What are the potential risks and challenges associated with long-term AI integration?
What data assets do you possess, and how can they be leveraged to derive value through AI?
Do you have the necessary infrastructure, resources, and expertise to implement and maintain AI systems effectively?
Are there any regulatory or legal implications to consider when utilising AI in your industry?
How can AI impact your competitive advantage and market positioning over the long term?
What are the potential impacts of AI on your workforce, and how can you ensure a smooth organisational transformation for employees?
How can you address ethical considerations and biases in AI systems to maintain trust and fairness?
What is the projected return on investment (ROI) and cost-benefit analysis of incorporating AI into your long-term strategy?
By addressing these questions, companies can gain clarity on the potential benefits, challenges, and impacts of incorporating AI into their long-term strategy. It is essential to align AI adoption with the company's overall vision and goals while considering the necessary resources, expertise, and ethical considerations for successful integration.
Phase 3: Evolve the Organisation by Developing Key Capabilities
The final phase of crisis response focuses on long-term adaptation and organisational evolution by building the necessary key capabilities. Before COVID, many organisations lacked effective business contingency plans to mitigate the risks associated with a pandemic, such as home-office arrangements, workforce sickness levels, disrupted workflows, at-risk supply chains, and uncertain compliance requirements. This third phase empowers companies to emerge stronger in the post-COVID world. In the context of AI, the organisation's response to the first two phases strongly influences the aspects of organisational evolution.
Some examples of key capabilities that can help organisations evolve in an AI-disrupted business environment are:
AI Literacy: Invest in developing a basic understanding of AI technologies, applications, and their potential impacts on the business landscape. This includes awareness of AI terminology, key concepts, and identifying AI opportunities and challenges.
Customer-Centric Approach: Understand customer needs and preferences in the context of AI. This involves leveraging AI to personalise customer experiences, improve customer service, and create value-added offerings.
Data Management and Analytics: Improve capabilities in collecting, managing, and analysing data. This involves identifying relevant data sources, ensuring data quality and security, and leveraging analytics tools to derive valuable insights from data.
Ethical Considerations: Prioritise ethical considerations in AI implementation. This includes ensuring fairness, transparency, and accountability in AI algorithms and decision-making processes to build trust with customers, employees, and other stakeholders.
Agility and Adaptability: Cultivate a culture of agility and adaptability to quickly respond to changes brought about by AI disruptions. This includes being open to experimentation, embracing innovation, and being willing to iterate and adapt business strategies accordingly.
Talent Development: Build a workforce with AI-related skills and expertise. Consider investing in training and up-skilling employees to understand AI technologies, data analysis, and other relevant areas. Encouraging a learning mindset and attracting AI talent can also be beneficial.
Partnerships and Collaboration: Form strategic partnerships and collaborations with AI-focused companies, startups, or research institutions. This allows access to expertise, resources, and potential co-development opportunities to enhance AI capabilities.
By developing these key capabilities, organisations can position themselves to evolve in a business environment disrupted by AI. It's important to note that the specific capabilities required may vary based on the industry, market dynamics, and the organisation's unique circumstances.
The key to success is to create the space for leadership to reflect, assess and act - rather than just letting things happen. Our job as facilitators is to ask the right questions. Quality questions create clarity and direction. Successful leaders ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.
Before you ask: Yes, this article has been written using the support of ChatGPT in a semi-structured interview mode together with input from clients and other key stakeholders.
So, how will you navigate the AI Disruption? How does your organisation respond to AI disruption? Do you see potential in increasing the cost-effectiveness of your products and services? How do you mitigate risks regarding intellectual property and potential dependencies on dominant global players in the market?
We hope this article has provided some thought-provoking ideas, and we look forward to exchanging further with you.