What is our AI strategy?" is a question I'm hearing all too often in recent months, prompting many well-intentioned individuals to scramble to identify a problem for AI to solve.  

The term has become a rallying cry of sorts for companies aiming to stay ahead of the curve. While it's true that technology, including AI, holds the potential to enhance efficiency and possibly provide a competitive edge for early adopters, it's vital to remember that technologies do not disrupt on their own.  

It is the strategic application of technology by individuals, driven by a clear vision and aimed at solving meaningful problems with solutions customers are willing to pay for, that drive innovation.

So, what's the needed course correction? The answer lies within a strategic framework that underpins innovation:

  • First, ask yourself if the organization is sufficiently aligned against a clearly understood business strategy?  This is the foundation for all subsequent choices. Then, does your organization possess a clearly defined approach to innovation that aligns with your core business objectives?

  • The human element is crucial. New tools and platforms are only as effective as the people operating them. Establishing rules, guardrails, and policies is essential not just for compliance or security, but to provide a structure that nurtures creativity.
  • Next is identifying which problems to solve. The goal is not to find a problem for technology to solve but to identify the right technology for existing or emerging problems.
  • Begin with low-risk experiments. Document your assumptions and define what success looks like. Allocate a modest budget for testing. Like gardening, some ideas will thrive while others may not, but you’ll learn something each time.  
  • Engage with your customers. Testing solutions with real-life customers or stakeholders or simply discussing ideas with them is invaluable. It helps determine if the problem is worth solving and if the proposed solution is something they would invest in.
  • Share your findings. Build a knowledge base that includes not only successes but also attempts and stumbles. This repository should be a valuable resource for your organization, offering insights on what to pursue next and what to avoid.
  • Lastly, consider establishing an innovation committee, Board, or a tiger team (depending on your company size and culture).  This group should bring diverse perspectives and deep knowledge of your industry and business to help evaluate which ideas merit more funding and can scale.  

While AI and tools like ChatGPT are incredibly powerful, they are not cure-alls for business challenges.  As leaders and innovators, our challenge is to look beyond the allure of technology as a quick fix and, instead, view its potential through thoughtful integration into our organizational strategy.  

This will transform them from mere novelties into pivotal assets and enablers of growth and innovation.

About the author

Isabelle Perreault

Isabelle is the Founder and CEO of Differly. She has spent her career helping business leaders understand the major drivers of change and helping them survive and thrive in a digital economy. She brings deep expertise in business transformation, corporate and business model innovation and go-to-market planning.

For over 20 years, she has been helping leaders in a wide variety of sectors develop and deploy human-centric, tech-enabled growth strategies. Passionate about entrepreneurship she also serves as a business coach to Startups with several incubators. Prior to launching Differly, she led one of the first Digital Transformation Practices in Canada and was head of Digital Strategy and Marketing for the Ottawa Senators, NHL Hockey Club. Isabelle is Chair of the Ottawa Youth Services Bureau Foundation and a champion for women entrepreneurs.

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