‘Tis the season for lists, and there are “Top-10” predictions lists aplenty for the year ahead. Keeping with the tradition started here a few years back, I’m only going to unleash on the world one, solitary prediction for the coming year.
In 2019, artificial intelligence (AI) becomes the force that saves AI — and the digital-industrial complex behind it. Let me explain: we’re seeing some fresh thinking about the nature of innovation — a period of enlightened realism. Some may even call it pushback against the waves of technology that have been sweeping across businesses, jobs and processes. There is already political pushback against data-collecting vendors and services. In an uncertain economy, technology expenses get watched a little more closely. Within enterprises, there is a recognition that while technology makes innovation possible, it is not the innovation itself. Innovation is based on design and thinking of solutions in new ways.
The problem is that it’s all been overwhelming — the mountains of data, mountains of gadgets, and mountains of hype have been engulfing us. David Sax, author of “The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter,” reflected this thinking well in a recent New York Times piece, in which he challenged the conventional thinking about technology. Business leaders are increasingly recognizing that buying lots of new toys isn’t necessarily boosting the fortunes of their businesses. As he put it: “At best, [tech] is a waste of time and money. Gadgets are procured, deployed and discarded. Resources are squandered as technology’s actual abilities fall short of its promise. People are forced to work at treadmills. Then everyone moves on.”
This is not to say that digital transformation isn’t a competitive tool. In a world of devices and networks, technology offers incredible paths to connect with customers, understand their requirements, and predict their requirements. And, yes, data analytics and AI free up people and resources to engage in greater innovation.
But there is also a realization that dropping technology onto a struggling organization isn’t going to alleviate the struggle. It takes enlightened, forward-thinking management. People build organizations, people build markets, their and people marshal AI, digital and cloud resources to connect their offerings with markets. As John Mannes observed in TechCrunch, AI needs an “anchor to reality” than only humans can provide.