Now’s the Time for AI Adopters To Start Thinking Bigger

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We love AI. We love talking about AI, writing about it, interviewing the experts. We work with some really interesting and creative pioneers in the AI space. If we didn’t like AI as much as we do, we wouldn’t have created a whole practice around it! So given all that, it might sound a little counterintuitive to argue about the downsides of *too much* AI. After all, if wider AI adoption is what our clients and we are striving to help enable, how can too much AI ever be a bad thing?

But that was the focus of a recent Deloitte survey, Thriving in an era of pervasive AI, which polled over 2,700 global IT leaders and business executives about their levels of AI adoption. While the survey found that AI adoption among organizations is perhaps moving faster and more widely than we might have expected, the flipside to the speed of that adoption is that both seasoned veterans and companies who are new to the AI game are utilizing AI in such similar ways that they’re at risk of losing any competitive advantage they might otherwise get from the tech.

Companies have bought in with AI

The good news is that businesses around the world, by and large, are already onboard with AI. Nearly three-quarters of the survey respondents fell into either the “seasoned” or “skilled” camps of AI adopters, i.e. companies that have already launched many AI production deployments and developed their own levels of expertise around AI (albeit at different levels). That level of adoption is driving what IDC expects to be nearly $98 billion in AI tech spending in 2023 – more than double the level of AI spending seen in 2019.

All of these trends point to, as Deloitte notes, the end of the “early adopter” phase and the beginning of the market’s move into a “early majority” phase of AI maturation. These adopters, by and large, are already confident in AI’s ability to unlock new business value for themselves and drive a competitive advantage against their peers, and now it’s just a matter of further building on those deployments and honing their skills.

A disappearing competitive advantage

The mass ubiquity of AI is itself becoming an issue though. Because experienced AI adopters now make up a majority of this community, and these adopters are embracing all forms of AI tech – from deep learning and machine learning to computer vision and language processing – we’re approaching near-universal adoption of AI. When AI is universally adopted…how does it stand out as a competitive advantage? How do you maintain a lead over your peers with AI when all your peers are also using AI?

And it’s not just that everyone has AI; most of these leading adopters are using AI in the same ways. The top two AI benefits named in the survey were using AI to make processes more efficient and using AI to enhance existing products and services. Nearly half said that IT applications were one of their top two use cases for AI.

Efficiency and optimization are really effective applications of AI, but they’re also very limited in scope and imagination – it’s just using AI to improve upon the tools or processes or use cases you already have. That might set you apart from competitors when the pool of AI adopters is so small. But if everyone is using AI, and everyone is using AI to make themselves faster and more efficient, where is the differentiation and competitive advantage in that?

In a world of pervasive AI, creativity and innovation is essential

It used to be that adopting AI alone was essential for businesses to modernize and stay ahead of their peers. That was true then; now, it’s table stakes. To maintain that leading edge, AI adopters need to push the boundaries of the tech further, think bigger and more creatively. Go beyond just efficiency and IT functions and think about how AI can be evolved and transformed to address new pain points, resolve different kinds of challenges, or serve entirely new needs in society.


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