Forget about Building an AI-First Business. Start with a Mission

Viewed in MIT Technology Review

Andrew Ng, the British-born technology entrepreneur, has proven a pioneer in 21st century artificial intelligence leadership, co-founding Google Brain in 2011, serving as chief scientist for China’s Baidu, and serving as an adjunct professor at Stanford University.

Customer-Led and Mission-Led Artificial Intelligence

So what does this artificial intelligence pioneer have to say for businesses that seek to utilize artificial intelligence in their business? Interestingly, in this MIT Technology Review, Ng says “Don’t do that.” The better approach, he says, is for businesses to first make themselves customer-led and mission-led. Artificial intelligence, important as it is, ultimately later augments these primary focuses.

All Company Data is Imperfect

Ng says executives today also should acknowledge that their company’s data is imperfect, and that they are not alone in that challenge. “I don’t think any company on the planet today—maybe not even the tech giants—thinks that their data is clean and perfect,” he told MIT Technology Review.

Brainstorm whether or not there is an AI solution 

Then there is the question of whether there is an artificial intelligence solution to the challenges that companies are confronting. Sometimes, but not always, Ng contends. “I usually go to business leaders and ask, ‘What are the things that worry you the most?’ so I can better understand the goals of the business and then brainstorm whether or not there is an AI solution. And sometimes there isn’t, and that’s fine,” he says.

Excessive Ambitions kill Artificial Intelligence Initiatives

One thing that can kill off artificial intelligence initiatives quickly is excessive ambition, Ng argues. “I think I see more companies fail by starting too big than fail by starting too small. It’s fine to do a smaller project to get started as an organization to learn what it feels like to use AI, and then go on to build bigger successes,” he says in this quickly readable but insightful interview with MIT’s highly-regarded technology journal.

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