Artificial intelligence, or AI, is everywhere in our daily lives: smartphones, tablets and computers, and also in our offices and homes with the widespread use of home automation and virtual assistants. AI works 365 days a year and twenty-four hours a day. It is behind Amazon, Netflix, Office 365, Oracle, Adobe and many business solutions.
Some roles within companies, especially those requiring human interaction, seemed less impacted by artificial intelligence, with management positions being the most prominent example.
Delegating managerial skills such as decision-making to a machine appears complex. However, numerous algorithms are being developed in this area to offer predictive and prescriptive solutions.
To achieve a deeper understanding of how AI is impacting society, business and how we make decisions, we spoke with Yannick Meiller, co-scientific director of the Online Executive Master in Digital Transformation and professor of Digital Transformation and Operations Management, whose white paper you can download below.
Associate Professor of Information & Operations Management at ESCP Business School
How is artificial intelligence perceived in the business world?
As Professor Yannick Meiller states, “In the business world, AI is not seen as a technical subject. It is above all a business subject”.
In other words, AI is an important tool that, when used appropriately, can benefit companies and invent meaningful solutions resulting in agile and effective organisations. However, to reach this goal, there needs to be synergy between the two main categories of employees found in most companies: data-oriented professionals (data scientist, data architect, data miner, data engineer, etc.) and department-specific professionals (finance, marketing, sales, production, human resources, etc.).
Getting what you need from the AI comes down to asking the right questions and identifying the best data to answer those questions.
Should we always trust artificial intelligence?
According to Yannick Meiller, trust in AI depends on whether you can trust the data. In referencing a famous example where Google Photos AI did not identify people of colour as human, he explained, “machines make decisions based on data. Bias in the data amounts to institutionalising the problem, whether it’s a question of racism, sexism or the market if your data only covers a non-representative segment of your customers”.
Can artificial intelligence make decisions for us or help us make good decisions?
AI will reveal behaviours or tendencies that humans might have difficulty observing in many cases. A form of AI that can support managers in decision-making is also the best-known and dates back to the 1960s and 1970s: machine learning.
Yannick Meiller describes machine learning as a “highly advanced statistical system” that uses data to find patterns and search for links and correlations.
Using past observations, we can therefore shape the future. And the more abundant, diverse, reliable and regularly-updated the data is, the more accurate and useful the experience will be.
As Yannick Meiller points out, the quality of the decisions shaping this theoretical future is only as good as the data available. However, assessing the quality of the data that informs a given algorithm can be an impossible task due to the oftentimes sensitive nature of these formulas.
Much like Coca Cola’s famous recipe, an algorithm can be the key to a company’s success, and its proprietary nature is in direct conflict with transparency.
Make artificial intelligence your ally
The value creation that can come from AI for both large and small companies depends on identifying a need, collecting and analysing meaningful data, and applying that analysis to make the right decisions for an organisation. With its unparalleled ability to process large volumes of data and with significant computing power, AI is now able to guide managers and professionals towards smarter action plans and better resource allocation with minimal human intervention. AI is neither a
friend nor a foe. It is a system created and controlled by humans, which aims to anticipate the future, make the right decisions, and help save time and streamline resources.
Learn more about how to leverage artificial intelligence for managerial decision-making by downloading the ESCP Executive Education white paper with Prof. Yannick Meiller.