Science fiction is quickly becoming science fact for artificial intelligence (AI). Even though we may not recognize it, AI is all around us. It is right now managing your banks’ investment of your savings and 401k, sending you text messages from your vendors and likely writing the sports stories you are reading.

It is this minute analyzing your patterns of use on the web and deciding how to send you the content that most appeals to you at just the right time. It is now looking for the best way to sell you your next vacation. Innovation of product and process will soon be based on AI analysis of large amounts of data.

It’s in our own industry, too. During the recent GlassBuild show in Atlanta, GED demonstrated an ABB robot that used a form of AI to quickly solve a Rubik Cube puzzle. A relatively simple vision system and an algorithmic rule set drives the logic of this bot. GED is working to further advance this ABB technology. It seems that the rapid advance of AI will affect our industry sooner than most have thought.

Preparation for these changes requires us to start our understanding of AI. A free online course from Udacity will give you the basics, and offers a path to more learning. Here’s the course description: “Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a field that has a long history but is still constantly and actively growing and changing. In this course, you’ll learn the basics of modern AI as well as some of the representative applications of AI. Along the way, we also hope to excite you about the numerous applications and huge possibilities in the field of AI, which continues to expand human capability beyond our imagination.”

We also need to understand how our Innovation managers will be affected by AI. A recent article from Entefy explains some of the new roles that managers will need to assume. Here’s an excerpt:

“The superstar managers of the AI era will be much more than scheduling ninjas or efficient task managers. They’ll serve as bridges between AI systems and their team members, guiding them toward more innovative and collaborative pursuits. Finally rid of repetitive and cognitively uninteresting tasks, managers will be free to unleash the full breadth of their creative skills and leadership acumen. Here’s what’s ahead for decision-makers of all seniority levels. Before looking at the evolving role of managers, let’s consider the changes AI is already bringing to companies. At present, managers spend 54 percent of their time on administrative tasks like scheduling and logistics coordination. As artificial intelligence systems become increasingly capable of fielding appointment requests, responding to emails, and generating quarterly and annual reports, managers will be able to redirect their attention to richer, more challenging priorities. Because today’s managers are still bogged down with administrative duties, they spend just 10 percent of their time on strategy and innovation and only 7 percent on developing their in-house talent and engaging stakeholders. AI improves that ratio, enabling managers to double the time they spend collaborating on new initiatives and investing in personnel and community development. Managers should anticipate big changes as AI becomes integrated into their workflows. In addition to serving as leaders and facilitators, as they do today, they’ll find their analytical and decision-making skills called into sharper focus. Judgement work, which requires a keen understanding of data and its human impact, will become paramount. New skills will be needed, and existing skills — like digital aptitude, creative thinking, data analysis, and strategic development — will be sharpened.

“In short, the automation of low-level tasks and the powerful insights generated by predictive analytics and other AI-powered systems will give managers more time and more data than they’ve ever had before. AI will help them do their job better even as it makes the work itself more fulfilling. The coming changes herald an era in which managers have the bandwidth to focus on complex, high-profile tasks like employee development and innovative brainstorming.”

Read the whole article. It’s well worth your time.

AI and Innovation are inextricably linked and must be considered together. Our ability as an industry to adapt to this new reality will define our success.

Keep innovating!

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