Even as recently as a decade ago, computer systems that could not only be programed to work entirely without human intervention, but that could also actually “learn” and improve at the jobs they were performing naturally, still seemed like something out of science fiction. As the current artificial intelligence (AI) revolution that we’re currently in the middle of has proven, however, that idea has officially become science fact.

According to one recent survey of Fortune 500 CEOs conducted last year, a massive 71% of respondents said that they agreed with the idea that their companies are now technology companies – the actual industry they’re operating in is almost irrelevant at that point. Likewise, 81% agreed that artificial intelligence is either “extremely important” or “very important” to their company’s future. To put that into perspective, respondents were asked the same question one year prior and at that time, only 54% agreed.

All of this is to say that AI has long since proven itself to be more than just a passing fad. It’s more than just ready for prime-time – it may be one of the most important technological trends to come along in a generation or more.

But at the same time, artificial intelligence is also often badly misunderstood and for those who aren’t intimately familiar with the implications, it represents some pretty significant (not to mention expensive) mistakes that they would do well to avoid at all costs. By understanding what Fortune 500 companies REALLY need to know about the evolution of AI, they can help mitigate risk from these mistakes and capitalize on opportunities as they present themselves moving forward.

The Myth of the “One Size Fits All” Approach to AI

One of the biggest mistakes that Fortune 500 companies can make when it comes to AI is assuming that there is some “one right approach” to implementation. “So long as they’re able to find it,” the thinking goes, “they’ll have everything they need to break out ahead of their competitors for the next generation.” Right?

Of course not.

AI is nothing if not malleable – which can be its biggest advantage or most significant liability depending on one’s understanding of what is actually happening. Far too many companies are STILL making the mistake of adding AI onto what they’re already doing as an afterthought, instead of rebuilding and optimizing their processes to support the innovation that AI brings with it.

These days, a lot of companies STILL view AI as something of a “silver bullet” – and they’re always disappointed when it doesn’t turn out to be some magic solution to everything they’re facing. Instead, they need to see it for what it really is – a tool that is to be very precisely applied to the specific challenges that a company is facing.

To that end, AI is really no different from any other type of technology. The most advanced, sophisticated computer in the world won’t do anybody any good if it isn’t being used properly. If you go into an AI deployment knowing that you want it but not WHY or WHAT it is supposed to do, it will be doomed to failure – never forget that.

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Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Another major thing that companies need to know about AI is that they should resist the urge to go “all in” too quickly. Many organizations try to do too much too soon, implementing anything and everything just because it’s “the latest and greatest” that modern technology has to offer.

Instead, they need to pay careful attention to the actual business value of the tools they’re selecting. If something isn’t properly aligned with your long-term strategy as a business, it doesn’t matter how advanced it is – it isn’t going to unlock the outcomes you’re after.

Likewise, the human element at the heart of artificial intelligence is of paramount importance. Your teams are going to need time to not only get used to what AI can do, but to learn what AI can do for THEM, specifically.

Because of that, starting small is always recommended. Keep the functionality as limited as possible at first and only embrace those bare essentials. Over time, those small pieces can add up to something quite significant and extraordinary – all at a pace that you and your workforce can actually support.

AI: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Finally, it’s important for Fortune 500 companies to understand the true implications that artificial intelligence has brought to the world.

Conversational AI, for example, can be a great way to create a deeper, more meaningful, more personal feel to customer service interactions with customers.

AI can also not only be a great way to gather data about the way an organization works, but to also analyze that data and unlock insights as quickly as possible. AI isn’t just about doubling down on what already works – it’s about finding what DOESN’T work so you can fix that, too.

To that end, it’s almost a misnomer to call a company’s embrace of AI a “deployment” at all. A “deployment” sounds like something with a beginning, middle and end – whereas your relationship with AI is going to continue to evolve over the next decade as the technology does the same.

In the end, perhaps the most important thing to understand is that while AI is nothing if not powerful, Fortune 500 companies will still need to proceed with an overabundance of caution. AI is not something you embrace because everyone else is, or because you feel you need to. It’s something to welcome into your organization because of the value that it promises to bring – because of the specific challenges that it will help you solve or goals that it will help you accomplish.

As is true with literally every other type of technology they’ve ever implemented, Fortune 500 CEOs need to make sure there is a carefully conceived, “money making” rationale behind the decision of any and all new tools. Anything that doesn’t immediately begin to add value isn’t much of a “solution” at all. Likewise, people in leadership positions need to be aware that AI is not an avenue to replace their human employees. It’s almost the opposite, in fact – AI is meant to support and empower them.

Because of that, the living, breathing human beings BEHIND these tools need to be prepared to embrace the full implications and capacities of any developments. Once you’ve been able to reach that level of “enlightenment” as an organization, so to speak, there’s literally no limit to what AI can help you accomplish.