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How to Build an AI-Driven Business, From One of AI’s Top Minds

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One of the major players in artificial intelligence just dropped an interview with advice every business leader needs to read.

What it is

Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, a world-renowned AI expert, conducted a recent interview with McKinsey that offered incredible advice on how to build an AI-driven company. 

Lee is known as one of the more prominent voices in AI, both as a technologist and an author of seminal books like AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order. He is currently chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures, a fund focused on AI investments.

The full interview is well worth a read. We’ve also summarized some of the tangible steps he recommends in the “What to do about it” section at the end of this article.

Why it matters

In Episode 20 of the Marketing AI Show, Marketing AI Institute founder/CEO Paul Roetzer and myself talked about why Dr. Lee’s advice matters—and why it matters now.

  • We’re at an AI tipping point. Lee emphasizes the need for businesses to accelerate efforts to become AI-driven. There’s a reason for that. “It feels like in the last five months, we’ve hit a tipping point where AI is very, very real and getting better at an exponential rate,” says Roetzer. That includes major recent advances in image generation, language AI, and generative AI. And we might still not understand how fast AI has developed. “Just assume the research labs are already 12 months ahead of what you’re seeing,” he says.
  • Businesses need to get started reinventing themselves now. Over time, you will need to become a fully AI-driven company or risk becoming obsolete. However, says Lee, it’s still early. You can get started now with narrowly focused AI applications. “You can start with the intelligent automation [using AI] of a repetitive task right now, and it might save you 20 hours a month or 100 hours a month,” says Roetzer. 
  • Making AI tangible is key. As you explore how AI can help your business, don’t be afraid to make it tangible. Lee talks about the importance of making AI tangible for leadership, to actually show them how the technology can produce results. This can be as simple as demoing a low-cost or free AI tool, which anyone, anywhere, can do. “I can show you a dozen examples of tools right now, and most of them either cost you nothing or less than $50 a month to use,” says Roetzer.

What to do about it

In the interview, Lee offers tangible steps to build AI-driven companies, including:

  • First, it means becoming data-driven. Data is what powers AI. Companies should be looking to digitize everything that can be digitized in their operations in order to get more and better data.
  • Then, use data visualization to actually understand this data. This allows you to begin making decisions based on data, not on feeling or instinct.
  • Next. look for “low-hanging fruit to automate.” These will often be tasks that drive down cost savings by capturing more efficiencies (i.e., tasks machines can do faster than humans).
  • Last but not least, show executives and leadership teams a “vivid working example of AI in action” wherever possible. This makes AI’s impact far more tangible to leaders.

If you want to learn more about this and other important AI topics, check out the full episode of the Marketing AI Show Episode 20: The AI Bill of Rights, Building AI-Driven Companies, and Meta’s Make-a-Video.

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