A Google search of “artificial intelligence” can quickly lead you down a rabbit hole of wild sci-fi-esque developments making their way into our world. It’s easy to imagine a terrifying landscape where an army of robots, a la 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL or Westworld, begin to think for themselves and take over the planet. But, rest assured, we have a while before we’re close to a place like that. For now, AI is mainly being used to automate processes and, ultimately, increase efficiency. And, of course, play Nora Jones by request while changing your thermostat.
With these technologies rapidly on their way to becoming commonplace in both personal and work landscapes, it is vital to consider how AI could be used in your business. And doing so quickly could be an excellent way to achieve a competitive edge.
A recent report from MIT Sloan Management Review surveyed thousands of business executives to see how ready and willing companies are to incorporate AI into their business. Four distinct groups emerged: Pioneers, Investigators, Experimenters and Passives. Only 19% of businesses were identified as pioneers—organizations that understand and have adopted AI—and 36% are passives—meaning organizations with no adoption or much understanding of AI. Investigators (32%) and Experimenters (13%) both have some understanding of AI, but they have yet to deploy anything.
The study asked business people if they found AI to be an opportunity or a risk. 50% found AI to be only an opportunity, and a mere 4% found it to be a risk only. (13% said neither and 33% said both.) This question is quite pressing in the news now, with executives like Elon Musk warning of an AI-induced World War 3 and Bill Gates countering that such warnings are unfounded and cause unnecessary panic.
Groups more willing to adopt AI generally had more confidence in their business. Pioneers and investigators both had significantly higher marks than Experimenters and Passives for the statements, “Our organization governs data well,” “Our organization thinks long term in planning and returns on investment” and “Our organization is open to change and receptive to new ideas.” So what’s the bottom line here? The more a company is willing to change as the industry does, the more confidence a company has in its own capabilities.
One of the biggest apprehensions circulating AI is the concern of robots taking jobs from people. And yes, AI is admittedly “better” at certain jobs than humans–particularly when considering efficiency and accuracy. If you’ve got a technology that can do a process more productively than manual human work, it only makes sense to eliminate the job. It’s good business! But this panic surrounding AI is not as simple as giving jobs to robots.
Technology taking over certain processes doesn’t make humans irrelevant. Far from it. With more AI being developed, more people are needed to program and maintain the growth of the technology. Even if you have automated processes such as data entry, you need manpower to make sure the system is running correctly. It’s even been speculated that coding will become the new big blue-collar job.
Additionally, if you’re able to have business processes running at peak efficiency, you are set up for growth within your company. And what does growth mean? More man-power. So while AI may eliminate certain jobs, it is not simply taking the place of humans. It is setting us up for more productivity and, if the opportunities are properly seized, more success.
What does this mean specifically for inventory management? Being a leader in AI adoption could give you an extra edge over your competitors. AI isn’t a fad; it continues to grow and grow. If you prepare your company for early adoption of AI rather than catching up once you have no other choice, your business processes are set up to be more efficient compared to your competitors.