Remember when the internet was new? Or if you’re a little older, when computers were new? Imagine being able to relive those days, with the benefit of hindsight – having the chance to build your business into the first Google, Facebook or Amazon. That would be a pretty good opportunity, right?
Well, in 10 years’ time we’ll be saying the same thing about AI. In fact, I believe that over the next few years, AI has the potential to create opportunities that dwarf anything that was on the table back then. Some estimate that AI is set to add $16 trillion in value to the global economy by 2030. And with one quarter of c-level executives now using it, and half of organizations planning to adopt it this year, it’s clear that the race has already begun.
However, driving AI transformation almost always involves large cultural changes - and often this has to start at the top of an organization, with the leadership.
This is the thinking behind the launch of IBM’s new AI Academy, which aims to empower leaders through an online curriculum of rapid, digestible snippets of learning. By bringing leaders and the c-suite up to speed on the possibilities that are up for grabs, IBM believes more organizations will be positioned to implement AI in a way that really makes a difference.
In this piece I’ll be take a look at the C-level education that IBM has put together. I’ll also take a look at what I believe are the essential qualities a business leader needs (or needs to learn) in the era of AI-augmented working.
What Makes A Great AI Leader?
IBM’s vision is to enable a generation of business leaders who are not just excited about AI, but fully understand its potential, and have great ideas about it should be used. One interesting development is that with the speed of the changes sweeping through many industries, skills are often more vital than experience or educational achievement.
This means that leaders need to quickly develop the ability to understand what skills are needed to tackle their particular challenges, and where they’re likely to be found.
Just as important is the need for flexibility and adaptability. Becoming AI-driven often means trusting the data and acting in ways that may seem non-intuitive. At the same time, we know AI isn’t infallible, so a certain amount of gut instinct and trust in ourselves is still essential!
And alongside that, there’s a need to understand the limitations of AI, and develop our human skills in a way that lets us to complement it. There will always be situations that require human input, and being able to recognize them – and understand why it needs a human – is a necessary quality too.
Lastly, for now, being an effective AI leader really requires a passion for learning. This means keeping our knowledge of the ways that AI is impacting the world up-to-date. In a way, all AI leaders should think of themselves as explorers, seeking out new challenges and making sure their businesses are in the right state to tackle them!
The AI Academy
Recognizing that their potential audience is made up of very busy people, the academy is designed in a way that encourages bite-sized learning, while hopefully also whetting the appetite for the more in-depth resources.
The great thing is it’s totally free – and certainly makes a worthy addition to my list of best free AI courses available online. Let’s take a deeper dive into the curriculum:
AI Academy starts with an overview of how generative AI is being used in businesses today, where it’s heading, and the important facts to keep in mind along the way. It then moves on to discuss the way AI is already being used to create value, and the importance of building your strategy around the right platform and technology.
In track two, it covers the concept of foundation models, that can process and analyze vast amounts of unstructured data from right across an organization, and flexibly deploy what it learns across many different business domains and use cases.
Foundation models are quickly becoming one of the most exciting fields of AI research, and certainly one of those that’s most relevant to business, so understanding and having the confidence to work with them is critical.
It also covers some of the most important topics that any executive or leader needs to understand around trust, transparency and governance in AI.
In the third track, AI Academy takes a turn towards the practical, with in-depth explorations of two specific use cases: AI in customer services, and AI in application modernization. These are two areas where opportunities are ripe for many businesses. Both make great jumping-in points for anyone wanting to get an overview of an enterprise AI implementation from end to end. Additional use case assets will be available in early 2024.
Change Management and Continuous Learning
The approach chosen by IBM with their AI Academy is clearly in recognition of the fact that a field as quickly evolving as AI requires new approaches to learning and change management.
The impetus is on leaders – and those who aspire to leadership – to cultivate a strategic understanding and approach that is as adaptive and dynamic as the technology is itself.
As AI becomes critical to an ever-growing number of business operations, resources like this will become essential for those those who want to develop a mindset of adaptability and openness to continuous learning.
Building the mindset of an AI leader is something that I believe is within reach of anyone, and often it starts with finding the right teacher or learning resources. AI Academy is certainly a great place to start and I look forward to seeing how it will grow in the future, as the challenges and opportunities around AI evolve.
Take a look at the growing collection of AI Academy content.