A Three-Step Recipe for Educating your Boss about AI

Does your manager think AI is just a machine where you put in data and produces an output automatically? And are you tasked with making AI work in your organization? Then this post is for you.

person stepping on blue stairs
Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash

I have to be honest with you, you better be in your job for the long run. I hope you are passionate about the company you are working for and are excited about AI. If you do and want to make the investment, then here is a three-step recipe to get your boss to the right level of understanding, and your life easier.

I have written before about the issues many companies face in the adoption of AI. One of the key aspects I speak about is AI Literacy. For me, AI Literacy is a combination of having an understanding of what AI is, and how to adopt AI successfully in an organization. And let’s be honest with ourselves, we probably aren’t there yet to the full extend either.

There is nothing more frustrating than working in an environment where the expectations are unrealistic, where the resources to do your job are not available, and you have to work-up against the polished stories on conferences and by consultants.

Unfortunately changing people’s minds will not happen overnight. There is no one presentation that you can do to have your boss understand the trick. You will need to take him along the journey you went yourself. Step by step.

Step 1

Help them understand what AI is

Your boss is probably in the uncomfortable situation that it is too late to ask you what AI actually is. Or (s)he just simply doesn’t have the time to engage with the topic or doesn’t know yet their definition may not be the right one.

So how can you help them understand? In your meetings, you can refer to the fact that many people have different understandings and you have heard that in other companies they define the definition of AI. And that you want to do the same. Define what is meant with artificial intelligence and have the topic return a few times. Provide them with examples of AI solutions in other companies.

When they will start explaining this definition to others, you know it is time for the next step.

Step 2

Help them find out what the different possibilities are with AI in your organization

Chances are you have been given the task because every company “does AI” these days. Now that you have the definition straight, it will be much easier to guide your boss through the process of finding the right use cases. Educate them on how they can recognize possibilities (hint: there where many decisions are made and lots of data is available). They will need to start seeing the possibilities. Once they do, it will create the “pull” you need to work on your projects. This is the sign to move on to step 3.

Step 3

Help them understand what it takes to bring your first project to a success

You probably know that bringing your first project into production is hard, there are so many things you need to find out technically. And then we haven’t even touched upon the cultural change that will need to take place for the adoption of AI solutions.

There are different approaches possible. I like to use Tesla as an example. Before the roadster there was no factory, they had to build it. Before they were able to scale with the other models, they needed to learn how to build cars. They started with a small number of cars to a small group of customers and could learn along the way. Now the Model 3 is ready for a much larger audience.

As mentioned earlier, people don’t change overnight, and neither do they learn overnight. This is about spoon-feeding the right pieces of information over a longer period of time. In larger companies, it may take years until you get there. In medium-sized companies, you may be quicker than that. And if you are starting your own company… Great! Then you can educate yourself.

About me: I am an Analytics Consultant and Director of Studies for “AI Management” at a local business school. I am on a mission to make data scientists happy (again) and to help organizations generating business value with AI.