Power Up the Innovation Process

Businesses — small and large alike — are already benefiting from advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and related applications. AI is changing the way our devices, homes and lives connect and provides results and solutions faster by processing large sets of data. Its application shows no sign of slowing down as machine learning continues to drive innovation across all industries.

“Innovation is a critical pillar of the long-term growth of our economy,” says Chairman of Globalive Anthony Lacavera, a YPO member in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, who focuses on accelerating early-stage technology, communications, virtual reality and augmented reality companies. “Long-term prosperity is something that we cannot under-invest in.”

There is no need to fear AI. It is part of the next wave of innovation that will help companies push boundaries. AI has the capacity to transform businesses as well as the role of workers. It will free them from more mundane tasks and allow them to focus on innovating and improving products and services.

Lacavera, who will be speaking at The Art of the Start during YPO Innovation Week, recently shared his views on how companies, regardless of size, can facilitate innovation and how more pervasive AI will continue to shape the future of the workplace.

The innovation cycle has accelerated.

“The development cycle for a new business — the time from start to finish for a new business model to be implemented and for it to have an impact — has shortened significantly. New businesses can start up faster at a much lower cost. Funding can be more readily available. This is accelerating the innovation ecosystem.”

Innovation transcends company size and industry.

“A mid-market company may dominate the niche market where it operates and have less pressure to innovate from the top but this is changing. Large companies have successfully bifurcated their business into existing operations with processes, workflow, checks and balances. Empowered groups within the company are able to try new things out without being impeded by the legacy infrastructure. They have enormous amounts of existing operating data and outcomes they can use to make predictive algorithms faster and more reliable. They also have the benefit of a customer base that can provide feedback on processes and services that startups do not have.”

People and money are the biggest barriers to innovation.

“For larger organizations, the most significant barrier to innovation is their people. If something is working well, people will resist change. It is hard to convince them that an incremental improvement is not going to have a negative effect. In a small startup, the barrier to innovation is funding — the availability of sizable funding to accelerate growth for a business to own a market. If they are successful in raising a large amount of capital then they could end up being a category killer.”

Embrace the new technologies.

“An owner or operator of a small business or CEO of a mid-sized business that is tightly held should embrace the new ways of doing things instead of trying to methodically resist incorporating new business models into existing operations. Enough time must be given to demonstrate a result — good or bad. The companies that are quick to pivot and kill processes and services that do not work are more successful than those that are giving them too much runway. Iterating is a key best practice across organizations of all sizes.”

AI can enable knowledge-based jobs.

“We recently invested in a company that is using machine intelligence to review judges’ decisions from a variety of legal cases over the last 50 years to help attorneys form opinions based on established facts. The law is a knowledge-based job that still relies on the lawyer to be a person, to have empathy and the ability to make an insightful opinion for his or her client. AI gives lawyers a new way to do their jobs more effectively, more cost-effectively and hopefully with a better outcome for the customer.”

Improve operating procedures with AI.

“AI is all about leveraging existing data sets to improve outcomes and operating procedures and to make more intelligent business decisions going forward. Predictive maintenance and process optimization rely on a machine being able to take advantage of large data sets much more quickly than a human could. Line managers now get information they did not have before. This informs what they should tweak, where, when and by how much. Humans are still required to oversee these processes.”

Prepare for the changes that AI will bring.

Think about the data that you have in your business already. What is the history of that data? How is it organized and how do you make decisions with that data today? Then, start to think about how machine learning could weigh in with a viewpoint on decisions and ideally improve outcomes. At the same time, consider how to transition your workforce to the new technology environment. AI is going to change the nature of all jobs. Embrace it and you’ll be the long-term winner in your market.”

YPO members can participate and learn more from fellow business leaders and leading innovators who are charged with driving innovation across a diverse range of industries and sectors during the second YPO Innovation Week, 8-12 May 2017.

YPO is the global leadership community of more than 29,000 chief executives in 130 countries who are driven by the belief that the world needs better leaders. Each of our members have achieved significant leadership success at a young age. Combined, they lead businesses and organizations contributing USD9 trillion in annual revenue. YPO members become better leaders and better people through peer learning and exceptional experiences in an inclusive community of open sharing and trust.