For most of us, the first time we likely heard about artificial intelligence (AI) came from some movie, TV show or media element. For me, it was some silly sci-fi movie years ago that involved a computer system that basically takes over the defense system and starts to induce war. You know the one I’m talking about… any film that sends a dire warning about the negative impact that AI will have on our world.

But, of course, we all know that AI is not really about robots taking over. Instead, it’s about using the data we collect every day, leveraging computers and machines to problem solve and decision make, and unlocking new capabilities and speed — particularly in the business sector — so that humanity can focus on more value-add, creative pursuits.

The gains for AI adoption and integration are huge. And that’s why it’s so important that we go beyond the sci-fi, the confusion, and the hype so that we can prepare our businesses to embrace an innovation that is already here.

The reality is that we interact with AI all day long. GPS apps. Amazon shopping. Website chatbots. Netflix recommender engines. Though we may think it’s just cool new technology, the truth is that it’s been here for years and with every passing day it becomes more and more commonplace.

Related Reading: 90-Day AI: 5 Quick Start AI-Powered Solutions

So now, the reality for us as leaders is that we have a choice. Will we remain AI naïve? Or will we shift to AI aware? And how does each mindset impact not just our personal leadership influence, but our teams and the organization at large?

Let’s take a look at the differences between the two mindsets and positions.

AI Naïve – All about Curiosity
In truth, most of us are still AI naïve — this isn’t something to feel bad about, though. It’s in our nature! Like any innovation, AI has come with its fair share of confusion. There is confusion about a number of things including…

The true definition of AI
The fact that it’s still a relatively new technology
The reality that things we’re referring to as AI are sometimes not AI
On the other side of the coin, things that we don’t refer to AI often are!
The realization that AI often doesn’t match the sci-fi vision we had in our minds

And the more the confusion, hype, and hyperbole swirls, the easier it can be to hover in AI naivete until the business asks us to shift our understanding. For example…

A marketing leader might feel comfortable using website chatbots and standard buyer persona segmentation strategies but may suddenly receive pressure from leadership to now understand natural language processing as it relates to content creation, sentiment analysis, personalized customer journey mapping, etc.

A call center leader might be using baseline logic for ticket escalation but suddenly find themselves navigating the world of advanced analytics and AI when the business calls for greater automation in customer service.

This is one of the biggest detriments to remaining AI naïve. In many ways, you are waiting for others to come to you about ideas for AI incorporation, versus you being the one to bring AI to the business. The former mindset keeps you in the passenger seat. The latter allows you to harness your curiosity, move past the confusion, and shift to action. And in so doing, grow your relevance and impact.

AI Aware – Commitment to Action
As we shift to AI aware, we start to move beyond curiosity and embrace intention around understanding how AI can drive our teams, business, and personal leadership forward. Being AI aware may mean things like…

Having deep understanding of the massive amounts of data that are actually being harnessed daily
Considering the influence of AI on business workflows
Recognizing that AI frees teams from the mundane day-to-day so that they have greater time to innovate
Being excited about the ways AI can support next-level collaboration
Realizing AI unlocks the door to greater team inspiration

As we shift to AI aware, we suddenly see AI potential everywhere in the business, particularly the way it frees our teams to be more strategic, creative, and collaborative and get back to the very parts of human ingenuity. Imagine how much faster we could solve issues like organizational waste, employee burnout, and manual swirl if we all shifted our consciousness around AI from naivete to aware!

Perhaps one of the biggest tell tales that you’ve shifted to AI aware is that you are ready to take action. Because you see the potential everywhere, you are ready to plunge into the AI upside.

As you get ready to spring to action, here are a few tips to jump in with confidence:

  • Get Comfortable with your Data: Take a look, often, at the state of your data… your data maturity and analytics. Consider the data you are using, where you’re getting it from, where it comes from (internal, external or combo), and how well you understand the integrity, quality and caliber of your data. A baseline understanding of our data is critical as we start to think about next-level application.
  • Think Advanced: To start really leveraging and maximizing the impact of artificial intelligence, you have to consider whether you are truly leverage advanced analytics and business intelligence. If you are not, you have to start! Make commitments now. For example, consider what the data telling you about where the business could benefit the most from efficiency gains… operational activities that drain leadership or client-facing activities that promote stronger brand loyalty, etc.
  • Start Experimenting: Once you have your hands around data foundations and are now starting to make commitments to being more advanced in HOW you use it, it’s time to experiment. Consider small but impactful places of your business that could benefit from AI lift (predictive analytics to support your sales engine, chat bot-powered FAQs to free up client services, automation, etc.). Think about how to bring AI to life in a way that helps your teams understand that AI is here to support — not scare!

A Choice
For years, the hyperbole has persisted, convincing us that we’re all going to wake up one day and see that artificial intelligence has taken over all our jobs. But it doesn’t work like that.

AI is just the next great technology that we have available to us. Just like we started to get comfortable using mobile devices to essentially run and organize our days. AI is next in line.

At the simplest of levels, it’s about creating intelligent outcomes and experiences without human intervention. It’s about helping our teams and companies be better. And it’s about shifting our own mentality form naïve to aware.

Because once we have awareness, we can then set intention and take action. And that’s when AI really starts to work on our behalf.