I recently returned from a restorative week in the Northeast Kingdom (Vermont) and my favorite annual lake swim race. Even though I placed first in the women’s wetsuit group, I encountered some challenges that could have been avoided.
These problems reminded me of the rapidly shifting currents we are braving in the world of AI.
At first glance, Lake Willoughby appeared calm amidst the windstorm.
Winds whipped around the tall pines. Hats flew off heads. The air horn overpowered the crowd chatter.
Yet the lake appeared welcoming for swimmers like me.
What could possibly go wrong with this short 1.3-mile jaunt?
Actually, a few things.
I skipped the step of asking Phil, the event organizer, about the currents. I waited until the last minute to organize my swim gear. I forgot to test the water temperature before the race started.
My lack of preparation and awareness came with a cost.
I drifted off course and nearly over-heated.
My opportunity to break a personal record faded.
A similar lack of preparation for the major shifts introduced by generative AI can throw personal and business growth opportunities into the deep end.
Here’s what I mean.
Less than 20% of the growth leaders in our community are stepping forward to help guide AI strategy. Their CIOs and legal teams will often lead the conversations and councils.
Yet their teams, in an earnest need for recognition and professional development, are actively using generative AI. Most are operating with no guardrails or guidance.
If that describes you or your organization, this is your moment to dive into strategic discussions and shape priorities.
Dozens of conversations, courses and private peer group sessions have taught me this:
- Avoid the hype wave. The tsunami of new product launches and platform battles can be exhausting. Hype and FOMO feelings do not guide pragmatic growth; strategic thinking does. Our most successful CEO coaching clients do not swim in the crowded “tool pools.” Instead, they are taking courses, studying markets, legal, social, privacy, and change leadership implications.
Invest 20 minutes a week in The Neuron and Futurepedia.io. These tools and news aggregators inform strategy and your AI council and initial use cases (defined as experiments that align with your strategic business goals). In addition, Google offers a free generative AI learning path here.
Your organization may choose to delay pursuing a generative AI strategy. “Not now” is a strategy, also.
- Build stronger business moats now. Organizations need one version of the truth for customer, HR, legal, financial, and technical operations before diving head-first into fueling a large language model (LLM) with murky data.
If you’re building AI use cases that involve customer data, proceed with even greater caution. This is riskier than creating an LLM containing internal employee onboard checklists. Do you have a rock-solid customer data platform (CDP)? Without one, you might feed your LLM bad data. (Learn more about CDPs in Episode 70 here). In addition, establish a baseline understanding of how your teams are currently using AI. During our recent Marketing Growth Leaders™ closed-door session, our members exchanged their employee survey question examples: What tools are you using? Are you building any use cases? What is your level of AI knowledge today? What kind of AI professional development courses would you like to take, or have you already taken? These questions reveal the scope of usage in your organization—and potential AI fires that you need to extinguish.
- Improve core strength through AI councils and board-sanctioned AI governance.
AI strategy and usage are not an IT issue. EVERY leader needs to understand the AI basics: lexicon, potential use cases, and how they align (or do not align) with your company’s strategic goals. In my latest webinar with EBSCO, I provided a framework to clarify your AI priorities and policies. You can download the free replay here.
During our peer group meeting on Tuesday, Sergei Dubograev, VP of Development at Clutch.co, reminded us that “council members are like characters in a movie. Every person does not need to appear in every scene or council meeting.”
In your organization, it might make sense to host a few small, highly nimble small councils, such as Clutch.co does. They have an outward (customer/market) facing group, an operational group, and an internal team/career group. Be sure your council can rapidly vet proposed use cases to avoid bureaucratic bloating.
Please don’t repeat my sloppy pre-swim routine. Standing by the shore, feeling disorganized, uninformed, and windswept doesn’t serve stakeholders.
The wild currents we are feeling with the AI arms race will eventually subside. Why not stay strategically afloat?