ITWC Digital Transformation Conference: Cindy Gordon on AI, Ethics and Performance

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    At ITWC’s annual Digital Transformation Conference, Dr. Cindy Gordon, chief executive officer of SalesChoice, and the recipient of the 2018 Digital Transformation Award for Disruptive AI, explored the topic of artificial intelligence (AI), ethics, and performance, and how AI can be applied for a sustainable growth advantage. 

    Gordon is a thought leader at Forbes and contributes a weekly column on AI and how it can be applied to improving board governance practices, and giving CEOs insights on what they can do to take advantage of AI. 

    AI is Everywhere

    The global AI market size was valued at US$93.5 billion in 2021 and is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38.1 per cent from 2022 to 2030 by Grandview Research (2022). 

    The Forbes Insight Survey that was done not long ago received respondent feedback that the value from AI can come in many dimensions. Gordon pointed out the most-cited business benefits from AI:

    • 40 per cent increased productivity 
    • 28 per cent reduced operating costs
    • 21 per cent improved speed to market
    • 20 per cent transformed business and operating models

    Gordon has been immersed in looking at AI and ethics for quite some time. She defines AI ethics as a system of moral principles and techniques that are intended to inform the development and the responsible use of AI. 

    But, she said, only a few actually understand the importance of AI ethics, a fact that she finds very disturbing. 

    Many people are building models using AI, but not thinking through the moral implications or the societal implications

    The Pew Research (2021) examined some of the key perspectives of where people are in regard to employing ethical principles. They found that nearly 70 per cent chose the option that ethical principles will not be employed in most AI systems by 2030. “This means, many people are building models using AI, but not thinking through the moral implications or the societal implications. So we do have some work to do as a technology leadership community,” said Gordon.

    Moving forward, she talked about the major AI worries and hopes.

    Worries: Many developers of AI are very focused on profit-seeking ventures. And right now there’s no legal global consensus about what ethical AI might look like. So there’s a lot of work to do on the legal front, said Gordon.

    Hopes: In terms of the hope side, she said AI shows incredible promising value in terms of societies and ways that it can mitigate our problems arising from technological evolution. 

    The Big Four that you really need to think through when you look at the area of AI ethics

    AI is now advancing into sales enablement

    Gordon took the opportunity to share a little bit of SalesChoice’s story and what the company has learned in terms of applying sustainable AI, particularly in the sales industry. SalesChoice only works in B2B, large enterprises. Thirty per cent of those B2B companies will be employing AI to augment at least one of their primary sales processes by 2025, she said. 

    “Just like we saw in advancing AI into marketing enablement, we’re seeing the same thing now in sales. We’ve been on a journey pioneering, we’ve got a platform that’s a very robust AI insight engine that not only looks at identifying the leads and prioritizing them for you, prioritizing your opportunities, getting to levels of 90 per cent in terms of predictive accuracy on your forecast, but also moving upstream upstream to relationship intelligence. And our newest addition is actually looking at correlations of mood into driving a business advantage. We all know happy motivated employees drive higher results in sales,” Gordon explained.

    Gordon then shared several case studies around the use of AI across the world, and offered advice on how AI can be applied for a sustainable growth advantage. She said:

    • “Technology leaders must really understand the implications of not having a line of sight to really strong, responsible AI practices.”
    • “Technology leaders need to get out front, they need to look beyond the next 12 months, they have to start looking strategically about the world that we’re all co-creating, and also thinking hard about the world we want to leave for our children.”
    • “The education is critical. Canada has been always very progressive on the AI stage. Canada has over 13 AI policy initiatives. I encourage you to learn and read about what Canada is doing in this area.”
    • Harmonized rules on AI. “We are looking for unifying legal standards governing AI across the globe.”
    • “Every human must have the right to be unknown, the right to remove any footprint of them at any time.”

    How to build a sustainable strategy?

    Focus on digital literacy

    “When you step back, and you want to think about building a sustainable AI strategy, I think the very first premise is you need digital literacy,” said Gordon. “It’s very important that we upgrade the skills and knowledge of our leaders across our organizations. As I mentioned at the beginning, AI is underlying everything. It’s much like we had to learn in terms of the applications of personal computers and how to work through, how to use PowerPoint, how to use Excel, we now need to understand the language of artificial intelligence,” she explained. 

    Build ethical AI foundations into your operational practices

    Think of ethical foundations as your screen. Is AI going to be used for good or for harm? Have that risk assessment, do it up front, but at the same time, you’ve got to follow that good development practices continue as teams evolve and resources evolve as you move through the lifecycle of building an application.”

    Integrate data analytics, AI and risk into a unified operating model

    “I can’t underscore the importance to bring these operating groups together and not to have silos…and same thing with the creative visual designers. Bringing those into the equation is so important.”

    Develop your talent and ensure all your AI projects are for good

    “There is nothing more difficult these days than to attract really accomplished data scientists. So you need to attract them, develop and retain them. They need to have the fundamental toolkits so that they’re growing and exploring. And most importantly, the AI projects that you’re advancing really need to be demonstrating that they’re for good, and you’re calibrating the values right upfront, and then following that journey through the lifecycle.”

    It’s all about striving for Balance

    “Leadership and AI is all about achieving the optimal balance and ensuring you’re integrating deeply responsible AI for good throughout your continued AI journey. It needs to be top of mind, you need to build it into your cultural DNA,” Gordon concluded.