How to Build a Culture of Innovation With AI

According to a McKinsey survey, over 50% of companies are using AI in at least one business function. High-performing, mature AI adopters are attributing 20% of their enterprise-wide EBIT to their use of AI.

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Yet, despite the potential benefits of the technology, many businesses are not seeing as strong a business outcome as they had initially expected. One reason for this is AI’s “shiny object syndrome” — where enterprises think of AI as just another software instead of aligning their business processes to get the most out of the cognitive systems.

AI Needs a Change in Work Culture

Bryce Hall, associate partner at McKinsey, says, “Some of the biggest gaps between AI high performers and others aren’t only in technical areas, such as using complex AI-modeling techniques, but also in the human aspects of AI, such as the alignment of senior executives around AI strategy and adoption of standard execution processes to scale AI across an organization.”

Deploying AI is not quite the same as adding new digital features to a product. It requires rebuilding business processes and changing the company work culture — a redesign of the working environment and workforce based on harnessing the cognitive capabilities of AI systems.

AI is fueling a radical change in the way humans and machines interact — AI is an active collaborator that will necessitate powering processes, products and services with data.

Building a Culture of Innovation with AI

Businesses have to adopt AI to succeed in the future of work and stay competitive. But AI doesn’t automatically lead to innovation. Humans need to leverage the power of AI to help drive that innovation.

Leaders need to prompt employees to develop their unique capabilities and harness their skills, experiences and learning to create breakthrough solutions. That’s why a culture of innovation and collaboration is a prerequisite to moving an organization towards common goals.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says,

“To exponentially increase their impact by building their own tech capabilities, companies need to invest in their human capital, so that they have a workplace culture that encourages capability-building and collaboration to spawn new, breakthrough concepts.”

Businesses that can leverage game-changing creativity along with optimizing their business processes will emerge winners in the age of AI.

Business executives who want to extract the most value from their AI investments will need to:

  • Break down business silos
    In traditional business, data remains sequestered within different verticals. But to draw out better insights from AI, all business processes have to become open and transparent and share data amongst themselves. AI algorithms will work best and generate better solutions when they can access information from across every department.


  • Nurture creativity and innovation
    AI is second to none when it comes to automating processes and completing long-winded, repetitive tasks in minutes. But it cannot yet compare to humans when it comes to creative outside-the-box thinking and interpersonal skills. This means that in the future of work, humans will play a very different role — one focused on strategic thinking and experimenting with new ideas. Leaders will have to make use of the analytical and predictive power of AI to nurture and encourage more creativity in their teams.


  • Cultivate human skills
    AI can automate processes and outperform humans in every clearly defined logical task, not roles that require emotional intelligence. Workers in the age of AI will have to focus on empathizing, interacting with and influencing other humans and taking on more strategic roles.


Forbes Technology Council member Matt Jones says,

“In the future, candidate aptitude and workforce performance will be measured in terms of quality of thought and human interaction rather than just knowledge and technical ability. Interviews will assess empathy, emotional engagement and lateral thinking.”

Creating a culture of innovation is a nuanced, enterprise-wide endeavor that requires a set of practices that rely on and affect all employees and processes to structure, organize and develop.

Register for the MIT AI Leadership course co-directed by Prof. Deborah Ancona, the Founder of the MIT Leadership Center, to learn how to develop the right leadership mindset and build an organizational culture of innovation in the age of AI.

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