Q: What do I need to know about artificial intelligence to prepare my company for the future?

A: Artificial intelligence (AI) develops smart machines to function in the same patterns as the human thinking process, but significantly faster. At the same time, it is designed to allow people to be more productive. Think of AI as working in the here and now while setting a direction for its future. AI processes information daily in ways that affect us all. Businesses are using AI in capital planning to uncover otherwise unnoted risks and introduce new operational models to react to economic changes. AI assists people in managing personal tasks — Nest adjusts home heating and cooling to the needs of the residents, while Echo provides a number of personal service functions. Smart cars are being tested successfully and health care diagnoses are more personal and accurate. This is a picture of the visible forces of AI, with the assurance that there is much more to come.

Now, here is some top-of-mind information for a future business focus: There are about 6 billion devices in the world asking for AI support, investment in AI startups is growing at the rate of 300% annually, AI is projected to replace 16% of American jobs through the next decade, and AI has the potential to double the economic growth rates of developed economies by 2035.

AI is replacing many job functions today, such as legal case review, call center conversations, employee engagement surveys, coding, auditing, market analysis and even typing. Managers ought to be concerned about how to integrate AI into their existing businesses. The job skills in the information age are not built around functions — AI will take care of that. Rather, employees must keep ahead of AI by developing uniquely human attributes that align information with business needs. They will be required to engage in complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and coordination with others. Managers need to adjust their position descriptions, hiring processes and training programs to meet the demand of these process skills. Machines may complete some functions better than humans, but human relationships will be needed more than ever. Prepare your company to deploy these skills.


Jack Militello is a professor of management at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.