Be more prizzly: time to start using Ai for outcomes not outputs (Digital Leaders Week 2023)

  • Opinion
  • Business
  • Tech

Humans are about to go hybrid - in fact, our race is undergoing its own digital transformation. Artificial intelligence (*Ai) is changing the way we operate: but can we be smart enough to take advantage?

For a Digital Leaders Week presentation, MMT Strategy Partner Pete Trainor investigates how we can make technology work better for business. And that means taking a focus on outcomes at your organisation, while the outputs take care of themselves.

Pete - a vastly experienced Product Director, Senior Strategist and former CEO who has always pushed the boundaries of business models using technology - invites us firstly to consider the forces of nature that can be applied to the synthetic world.

We’re all aware of Climate Change, and several years ago scientists identified its consequential shifts had created a new hybrid wild bear. Forced south due to habitat changes, the polar bear moved onto grizzly bear territory - and when the unstoppable force met the immovable object, nature took its course and the pizzly, or grolar bear if you prefer, was born.

As animals evolve, so now do humans. Unless you’ve been squashed under a bear for the past six months, you’ll have noticed daily warnings in the media about robots coming for our jobs. The World Economic Forum estimates 85 million jobs globally will be automated by 2025.

The fact is, Ai is coming for certain roles, and jobs will inevitably be lost. But there is another way to look at this, Pete observes. What if humans embrace becoming hybrid beings, incorporating the best aspects of technology with our own brains so that we can actually achieve more?

Don’t obsess over technology’s outputs

It isn’t new to point out that Ai will automate many of the time-consuming tasks that human workers would be better off leaving to the algorithm, while employees focus on more ‘human’ aspects of business - such as soft skills and creativity.

But it seems employers are now beginning to realise this potential benefit. Only this month, Swedish furniture giant IKEA announced it was switching a large share of its call centre operations to automated responses, but committed to retraining displaced staff as interior design advisers, helping customers to plan and kit out their dream living space.

This is exactly the type of business model shift that forms the centrepiece of Pete’s contention. Organisations now need to be outcome-based, not output-focussed. But what does this mean in practice?

In essence, those companies keen to disrupt their operations with Ai will only thrive if they develop and implement a fully fledged Outcome-based Business Model (OBM). This is fairly new terminology, but is set to be a big deal in the commercial world.

Part of the danger as Ai technologies take hold is that we might only focus on - even obsess over - what the next wave of code-based change looks like. Do that and we’ll forget to consider the commercial opportunities Ai provides, and what the customer really wants.

So you and your workforce could spend the bulk of your time prompting ChatGPT and its rivals to create something unique and innovative in a fraction of the time; the capability is already there, and will only get better. Frankly, though, most businesses don’t understand Ai to the extent that it could be optimised for best results. By the time they get to grips with what it can be used for now, we might be a further twenty Ai iterations down the line.

As Pete puts it: “In future, a true Ai-driven business will be perceptual: one that is fully autonomous; doesn’t ask our permission or lead us to an answer; and just fixes everything before we get into trouble.”

If that will be the case, then surely now is the time to pause and take a step back. If we programme the technology to plan, implement and measure all of the tasks that we know it can easily and efficiently take off our hands without further thought - the ‘outputs’ - we could achieve so much more.

From outputs to outcomes: a mindset transformation

Consider what freeing up the collective time you and your teams allocate to the ‘grunt’ work would mean for more strategic aspects of your business.

Pete clarifies: “The 12 traditional business models, from retail and manufacture, to franchise and advertising, are all KPI driven. Soon, technology will take care of those outputs from top to bottom. And if Ai is handling all of that, it changes the work humans need to do.”

So really, this aspect of digital transformation is actually a mindset transformation.

Pete reckons Ai should really stand for ‘Augmented Intuition’. When tech hums along mopping up mundane tasks, we can turn our attention to answering higher-purpose, outcome-focused questions about the business model, including:

  • What do you really want to achieve as an organisation?

  • How do you want customers to feel, rather than fretting about what you want them to do?

  • Can technology underpin better customer relationships?

  • In an ideal world, what would your business be famous for?

As Pete says: “We need to think creatively and innovatively when outputs are taken care of. MMT doesn’t dwell on Ai trends, but help businesses to understand specific, relevant, measurable outcomes: what do you want to achieve? What are the problems you want to solve for people? Focus on that, and the automation will slip into place.”

OBM, then, is about having a positive vision for change but with measurable outcomes. It should also underpin a culture of continuous learning, with workforces trained to feel comfortable with the technology, and to get the best from it as rapid shifts continue to rattle down the tracks towards us.

Just like those pizzly bears, humans are becoming a victim of their changing environment. But evolution - progress - has always been about adapting and finding new purpose. 

Are you ready to evolve to a more useful state of harnessing technology to deliver better business outcomes? Let's have a chat! Book a discovery call to find out how MMT can help your digital team and your business.

*Pete uses 'Ai' rather than commonly used 'AI' to clearly differentiate between the human intelligence (I) and machine intelligence (i).