Artificial intelligence, or AI, has existed as a concept and area of scientific study since the first half of the 20th century. It was not until the dawn of the 21st century, however, that the partnership of AI and business truly began.
When it integrated with business on a global scale, AI helped boost productivity in ways never seen before and signaled the beginning of an unprecedented collaboration between humans and AI.
This collaboration has the potential to create a future where more jobs are created than lost and where we have the tools to upskill workers more effectively. In our future, AI helps humans stay ahead of best practices and trends, creates better and more personalized marketing tools to reach customers, and enhances business culture and work-life balance.
But there are also mounting questions regarding the ethics of AI, and how to ensure it will not only help us be more productive but also make the digital age safer for us as well.
For solutions to these concerns, it’s helpful to look at “human-centered” AI, and its standardization for your AI strategy.
Building your AI strategy
AI’s role in business has always been as a tool.
Predictive AI is the most established tool, and yet still evolving. Predictive AI continues to revolutionize data analysis, providing businesses with better forecasting of trends in more efficient time frames than humans could even fathom (we’re talking hours or minutes and seconds versus weeks, months, and even years).
These predictors have helped to transform product creation, sales forecasting, marketing strategies, and advertising creativity—streamlining communications with customers and other businesses by understanding and anticipating their needs. Predictive AI has directly interfaced with consumers for years—in the form of automated customer service and chatbots, personalized advertising, and through Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.
Outward-facing departments are not the only sectors to benefit from predictive AI. It has also revolutionized business culture, especially in the areas of HR and HCM. AI is improving and optimizing the employee experience—from onboarding and scheduling to analysis that can predict retention and employee sentiment.
Generative AI (GenAI), in the form of ChatGPT, Bard, and the alternative apps that have followed, is most certainly the tool of the moment—but it is far from a passing fad. When used correctly and ethically, it can support boundless innovation as it continues to learn how to be an ever-better assistant, freeing up time for employees at different levels by completing their rote tasks, and providing inspiration for new ideas.
We know AI is boosting productivity in office environments, but it’s also revolutionizing other industry sectors:
- Manufacturing: While many of the concepts only exist in a future reality, even the present is benefiting from improved product design and quality control, and optimized supply chains and processes.
- Retail: Creating personalized designs on demand, optimizing inventory, and tracking, and creating in-store promotions and marketing materials at scale are just a few examples.
- Healthcare: AI can analyze patient health data more effectively and efficiently, leading to faster and more accurate diagnoses and interventions. It can also streamline communication with doctors leading to better patient care.
- Public Sector: There is an obvious connection between the public sector and AI with the Department of Defense. Plus, research shows how the public sector can benefit as AI is more widely adopted.
The critical role people play in your AI strategy
Data analysis is a prime example of AI’s strength in the digital age of business. The amount of data created daily is beyond the abilities of humans to assimilate and disseminate. In the digital age, trends can change in the blink of an eye. Only AI predictors can keep pace and even get ahead of the “next big thing.”
However, as efficient and scalable as AI is, humans are still needed to create data parameters, check for bias, interpret findings, see the big picture, and ultimately share the data-backed stories with specific stakeholders. Each stakeholder has different learning curves and needs, and humans still oversee this aspect of information sharing best.
Generative AI, until now, has predominantly remained the forte of those with AI and tech backgrounds. The power of ChatGPT and other similar apps is that they now put GenAI at every employee’s fingertips. This tool can help any worker brainstorm ideas and ideate new products and content.
ChatGPT can, in moments, bring together facts and research on almost any topic. It can write the first draft of an email or proposal. It can help push through writer’s block—all at scale. But just as with predictive AI, the human supervisor is still necessary.
In addition to creating correct research parameters and double-checking for accuracy and bias, it is humans who must review and complete the end product for delivery. Products and content must connect with their audience to be successful. It takes creativity, empathy, and humanity to make that connection—this still cannot be generated by a machine.
Products and content must connect with their audience to be successful. It takes creativity, empathy, and humanity to make that connection.
Right now, mainstream GenAI (i.e. ChatGPT) is less than a year old, still in flux, and evolving every day. However, we seem to be on track based on these studies and analysis that’s already several years old. Their assessments? That AI will be the ultimate business tool. That it will work best in collaboration with humans, and will eventually—in most instances—assimilate with humans in the workplace rather than replace them.
The greatest strength and power of AI and human collaboration are the opportunities to do more:
- To develop more insightful data parameters and ensure the accuracy of the results.
- To create better stories.
- To help stakeholders work through their learning curves.
- To commit to best practices.
- To ensure the efficacy of products, systems, and content produced so there is less waste financially and environmentally.
The collaboration of humans and AI can help support a greater work-life balance while also accomplishing more than ever before. It will provide more opportunities to create, collaborate, and innovate.
How do human-centered design and AI intersect?
AI will be at the core of all business in the future. But as we move forward, ethical concerns—specifically regarding personal information and privacy—loom.
One of the proposed solutions to the ethical questions also has the potential to enhance AI’s capabilities: human-centered design.
Human-centered design (HCD)—or design thinking—is a practical theory of how to create better products and services by grounding the design process entirely on the needs of the customer by starting with empathy. It is an iterative process that repeats a sequence of development until the perfect end product for the customer is realized.
HCD has proven to be successful and is a standard, accepted methodology in successful business practices today, used by companies such as Samsung, Spotify, Apple, Netflix, and Uber.
There are two primary ways in which HCD and AI should be used together.
The first is in ensuring the safe and ethical use of AI as it becomes part of our daily lives and continues to evolve. In anticipation of GenAI becoming universally available, experts in the AI field and those in business and academia have worried for years about the ethical implications. Most have reached the consensus that the future of AI must be human-centered. This is because human-centered AI will always, first and foremost, be protective of humans, their data, and their privacy. The theory is that this will intrinsically negate the largest ethical concerns associated with AI.
The second connection between AI and HCD is the similarity in their processes. AI is also inherently iterative, constantly taking new input from its users to help evolve, be more efficient, and create more accurate content. This mirrors the HCD iterative process of constantly ideating and testing those ideas to create the best product for customers.
This similarity in their processes creates a natural synergy. When AI and HCD work in tandem in business, they help create products and systems that can grow and evolve with business and customer needs. UKG, for example, is using the combination of AI and HCD to create the best HCM for our customers, their employees, and our employees.
It is now becoming fact: For a healthy and functional future world of work, we must look to human-centered AI; we must look to create a good partnership between people and AI.
Human-centered AI is the future
AI is evolving daily, perhaps even hourly. But the future of business including AI is assured. There can be no going back from the strides in productivity, creativity, and innovation courtesy of, what needs to be, an ethically sound collaboration. AI—if it is human-centered—may be our best chance to finally institute real protections for personal data and privacy.
It is also possible that AI will not only support more productive workplaces but ones with a better work-life balance as well.
As AI becomes responsible for more routine, repetitive tasks, employees will be asked and able to concentrate on bigger ideas, better products, and stronger support services—and simultaneously create more time for home life and self-care.
Ironically, it could be AI that returns humanity to business at every level—because humans could have more time to give and share their energies and expertise with the customers, stakeholders, each other, and themselves.