This new era of artificial intelligence calls for a new breed of leader: Someone with strong domain knowledge and subject matter expertise who ALSO has a strong understanding of the technical inner workings and capabilities of artificial intelligence.
Billionaire Mark Cuban is a prime example: He is an extremely successful businessman leading several organizations who is taking the time to learn Python programming, machine learning engineering, deep neural networks, and more. In his interview, he said this is paramount for him to lead his companies effectively in this new era of AI.
The biggest strength of top corporate leaders in the era of AI is their domain knowledge: They know a vast amount about their industry, operations, processes, competition, business goals and objectives, strategic imperatives, and more.
Prior to the advent of artificial intelligence, this has been enough for business leaders to help their company and teams succeed. They never really had to understand the technical details and technology of the company to make good decisions.
However, business leaders without a technical understanding of AI are not properly positioned to make sound decisions about AI strategy for their company – and certainly not about hiring decisions and AI technical team building.
This is because they simply don’t know enough about what AI really is, how it works, how it can help their company, what are its true business capabilities, and what is its potential in their industry. What little they do know mostly comes from looking at competitors and the endless hype from news/opinions of non-technical people trying to give advice about AI. This is a major weakness and point of vulnerability for business leaders.
We are already seeing the effects of these issues across industries. For example, in 2019 alone over 45 consumer and retail CEOs have left under pressure, or been fired. This high churn rate at the highest executive level has never been seen before, and it’s happening during the best economic time in American history. When the next recession hits, we will see massive changes in management teams across industries.
This trend is happening due to one main underlying reason: Failure to innovate and adapt. The above example is not AI-specific, but it’s a sign of what’s coming due to massive changes in technology and consumer behavior.
Many business leaders may not want to hear this, but the only way to be an effective leader for your organization in this new era of AI is to get your hands dirty by learning the technical aspects of AI. Since you already have the domain knowledge, this new technical understanding of AI will make you invaluable to your company and industry.
This is not about becoming an AI engineer – this is about becoming a powerful, educated leader with the ability to identify and assess AI opportunities in your company/industry, develop sound AI strategies, and lead your teams effectively. These new AI leadership skillsets are going to be major sources of job security for business leaders for many years to come.
There is an “AI guru” out there telling business leaders to simply look at the current successful use cases from other companies in their industry, and choose to implement one or more of those. He says that if your competitors have not done it before, then you cannot do it either. He goes further by telling them they can become “AI experts” in their company without ever having to write a single line of AI code.
This is ludicrous. The biggest problem with this mentality is that you will never truly understand AI, you will never gain an edge, you will never outpace the competition, and you will never dominate your industry. You will always be playing catch-up and copying others – all in an attempt to play it safe due to a (convenient) lack of technical education about AI.
Corporate leaders, from middle management to the C-suite, often try to do things the way they have always done them. Innovation inevitably brings change, and risk – and they do not want to ‘rock the boat.’
However, if you want true job security and (even better) career growth, you cannot afford to ignore the technical inner workings of artificial intelligence – especially considering that AI will impact all industries and business operations. When you combine this new understanding of AI with your domain knowledge and subject matter expertise, you will become one of the most valuable leaders in your organization and your industry.
If you need help to accelerate your company’s machine learning efforts, or if you need help getting started with enterprise AI adoption, send me a LinkedIn message or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to help you.
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