Unlocking AI's Potential For Business

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The AI revolution is here and it's opened up a sea of possibilities. 

The integration of artificial intelligence has become a game-changer for businesses across various industries. AI has the potential to revolutionize processes, enhance user experiences, and drive growth. But how do you navigate the complex landscape of AI opportunities? 

In our 8th edition of Creative Sparks, we explored the potential that human centered design in artificial intelligence can bring to businesses and how leaders can identify, define and prioritze which business challenges are the best fit for disruption with AI. We also had our very first Creative Sparks Afterglow, an informal session following this event, where participants were free to stay on and chat with each other further about ideas and conversations started during the event, and raise questions that went unaddressed during the talk. 

Our hosts, Armağan Amcalar and Sarah Ajani-Johnson are both prolific technologists. Armağan, an engineer with over twenty years of experience, harnesses innovation and robust software principles to develop impactful and scalable systems, with a unique talent for simplifying complex technological concepts. 

Sarah is an expert in leveraging design thinking and agile product methodologies. She spent the last decade specializing in testing ideas for innovative products and services for major companies such as Capital One and Intuit, and her approach is rooted in a deep understanding of user-centric design and the practical application of business strategies.

Exploring AI Opportunities: From Concept to Product

The world of AI is vast and constantly evolving, making it essential to have a clear strategy for AI integration. Whether you're a seasoned business or a budding startup, the key to success lies in discovering, defining, and testing AI opportunities that align with your goals.

Our journey started with the discovery phase. Arman advised that the first step was to reframe the question of, “What can AI do for my business?” And instead ask, “What should AI do for my business? What are the different ways it could transform my business flows, drive KPIs and transform customer experiences?”

AI discovery involves:

  • Challenge identification: What is the right problem AI should be focusing on solving for your business or customers in order to have maximum impact?

  • Use case assessment: What are your specific use cases that are most fitting for disruption with AI?

Sarah then walked us through mapping a problem space to delve deeper into the opportunities within our business challenge landscapes. This involved choosing a range of business challenges that might not be directly connected, but represent various areas where your business could innovate. We’ve provided a link to the version of the activity we used below if you’d like to try this yourself! 

Sarah advised to think widely about various business challenges. For example, in HR, we considered issues like slow and complex resume reviews, lengthy candidate application processes, inadequate tracking and optimization of the talent pipeline, or overburdened recruiters struggling to prioritize tasks throughout the day. These challenges may be part of the same business, but they don't necessarily have direct links. However, they all present opportunities for improving the overall business or customer experience.

The next step was to evaluate the customer journey map. Opportunities were categorized as small, medium, or large. When an opportunity was defined as "large," it meant that if the challenge was successfully addressed, it would have the most significant impact on the business or on customer satisfaction. Conversely, a "small" opportunity, when resolved, would have a relatively smaller impact.

When evaluating customer impact, think about the value it adds for customers, such as time saved or a critical problem solved. Depending on your specific situation, you should gauge the size of these problems accordingly.

Unveiling the AI Frontier

We then heard from Armağan who walked us through how we can see AI and Machine Learning as business tools. 

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have become buzzwords in recent years, often invoking images of futuristic robots and complex computer systems. However, AI and ML are much more than that. They're already an integral part of our daily lives, from the personalized product recommendations on Amazon to the efficient spam filters in our email inboxes. 

When most people think of AI, they imagine Chat GPT, advanced robots, and highly sophisticated technologies. In reality, AI seeks to replicate human intelligence in machines, albeit without genuine reasoning or thought processes. Instead, AI relies on intricate mathematical algorithms to identify word similarities, making it a powerful tool for various applications.

While AI captures the imagination, it's essential to recognize that it's a subset of Machine Learning. To understand AI's inner workings, we need to dive into the world of ML. Think of it like a parent teaching a child to recognize different animals. The child learns through exposure to pictures and explanations. In a similar way, ML feeds data to a set of algorithms, allowing them to learn over time and make predictions, decisions, or generate output.

AI and ML offer an array of practical applications that can positively impact the business landscape:

1. Classification: AI can categorize and sort data, making it invaluable in fields like healthcare, finance, and e-commerce, where quick and accurate data classification is crucial.

2. Generation: AI can create content, including text, images, and even music, enhancing creativity and productivity in various industries.

3. Trend Prediction: AI can analyze vast amounts of data to anticipate trends, enabling businesses to adapt and make informed decisions.

4. Natural Language Conversation: AI's ability to understand and respond in natural language has revolutionized customer service, chatbots, and virtual assistants.

The beauty of AI and ML is that you don't need to be a technical expert to grasp their significance and benefits. They are tools, much like a hammer or a computer, and their value depends on how we wield them. As these technologies continue to evolve and become increasingly accessible, their role in our lives will only expand.

Like any tool, their value comes from how we use them. So it's really important to pick the right challenges for AI! 

Which AI capability could be useful for you? 

Lastly, we zeroed in on the most AI-worthy use cases or challenges that are ideal for introducing AI into business solutions. To identify these, we gave our attention to the medium and large scale items we had identified earlier in the activity, as they presented the most promising opportunities to yield significant business or customer benefits.

So, what should you look for? If you come across a challenge or opportunity on your own map that falls into the medium or large category and also features an AI capability number from one through seven, that's a strong candidate for AI integration. These items have the potential to make a substantial impact and are ripe for AI-based solutions.

By following the steps of visualizing, mapping, adding data points, and noting your capabilities, you can gain a clear understanding of where the most significant areas of disruption might lie. 

Sarah and Arman’s overall aim was to provide practical frameworks for addressing business challenges, and pinpointing use cases that are particularly amenable to AI-driven disruption. 

We loved the energy and expertise that Sarah and Armağan brought to us and the event. If you'd like to try a version of the activity at home you can do so using this PDF. If you missed the session, or you'd like to be guided through the experience, you can watch the recording here.

If you do try out the activity, we’d like to end by asking yourself these questions:

1. Have you classified your opportunities and challenges as small, medium, or large?

2. Do you have use cases that fall into one of the larger categories we discussed?

If you're interested in working with Sarah and Armağan to discover and define AI opportunities for your business, or for help with building out the first version of your product you can collaborate with them at their Neol profiles, or book a meeting with them via Calendy

Neol has also recently introduced a one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art AI matchmaker. It works by taking any challenge you’re facing and pairing you with the most compatible Creative Leaders at Neol, empowering your projects with unprecedented creativity and expertise. Check it out at ai.neol.co.

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