Four Takeaways From the Brainstorm AI Conference


AI is set to bring “big changes” but robust outcomes depend on proper planning.

Fortune held its third annual Brainstorm AI conference in San Francisco this week, with over two hundred business and technology specialists weighing on artificial intelligence’s mammoth impact on the business world and how executives should handle their AI experiences for optimal impact.

Senior executives from big business brands like Accenture, FedEx, Qualcomm, Google, and Walmart – among many others – share their AI experiences and visions. Here’s what stood out from the conference’s panel presentations.

On workplace impactors. In reality, most senior executives aren’t even remotely ready for AI’s presence on the job.

“I think we’re woefully unprepared,” said Atif Rafiq, CEO of Ritual.work. “Organizations are not preparing their teams to tap AI to do it better and smarter, but on top of that, it’s a vulnerability for the workforce because AI, I think, is the ultimate bar-raiser.”

Accenture chief technology officer Paul Daugherty says training and education – the more the better – are the keys to getting the best results from AI implementations. “There is no AI-ready workforce you can hire a year from now, or two years from now, or three years from now,” he noted. “You need to bring your workforce with you and develop them.”

On the care and handling of AI. Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince told conference attendees most companies are in over their heads with AI rollouts.

“Basically, they’re “lighting money on fire,” Prince said. Instead of focusing on the “cool factor, look around and see what other companies are doing with AI that works for the short term and the long term. Workday vice president of AI Kathy Pham agreed, adding that “sticking to the basics” is the way to go. “Go out into the field” to understand the real needs of customers, whether they be truckers or health care workers, Pham said.

Spread the wealth. Mixing it up among your company’s top talent will also maximize AI investments. “Don’t just leave your AI project to the engineers – AI truly is a techno-social problem,” said Credo AI’s founder and CEO Navrina Singh. “Feeding” AI to different departments like legal and compliance, marketing, finance, and data can make AI a company-wide experience.

On managing expectations. Gauging expectations from different management tiers should be in play, especially early on. A case in point – Upwork CEO Hayden Brown cited a revealing survey of 1,400 U.S. businesses about their AI strategies: 73% of C-suite executives were confident in their AI strategy, while only 53% of managers and VPs held the same confidence level.

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