As part of Mx3’s Collectif, in which we feature the work of our partners (see more here), Matt D’Cruz of Martin Tripp Associates outlines why – in the age of AI – every company will need to bring in transformative leaders who can instill their knowledge throughout the company, and train the next generation.
Artificial Intelligence heralds a change as profound, if not more so, than the advent of the internet 25 years ago.
We have spent months talking to CTOs, commercial and strategy leaders, and some of the few AI leaders that are currently out there. There are deep questions still unanswered. What will happen to human creativity? Will AI destroy more jobs than it creates? What kind of jobs will it create? But a clear consensus is emerging around a few key areas:
There’s going to be a lot less free content around
One recurring theme from our conversations is that content owners will start putting more and more behind the paywall, particularly if they can’t charge AI owners for use of their IP.
But are users ready for a subscriptions-heavy future? And will they value that content enough to pay for it if there’s even a suspicion it’s been written by an AI? The rise in both B2B and consumer subscription models suggests that the appetite is there – if the content is strong enough.
Brands that have taken care to cultivate the trust of their audience will see it pay real dividends. Those that haven’t, or that are seen as dispensable, could be in trouble. These concerns should be at the centre of any content strategy worthy of the name.
Your AI strategy should work in the service of your underlying business strategy, not the other way round
As a business, your core identity and your strategic goals should not change, although AI will be an invaluable tool to help achieve them. Any AI strategy that sits off to the side of the rest of the organisation is doomed to fail.
Success will be about how you leverage new capabilities to do things you’d previously never been able to do, but also how to reach your core underlying goals in a way that is more efficient and, very likely, much faster.
But the inherent DNA and aims of your brand should remain the same. Unless you are an entirely new product, your credibility has been built up over years: use AI to enhance it, not undermine it.
No more disruptors-in-chief. Your organisation needs educators and influencers
20 years ago, most content organisations had a Head of Digital tasked with driving transformation: and we have all heard horror stories of self-styled ‘disruptors-in-chief’ who came in with no understanding of the business they were trying to change. All they did was create fear or confusion. In many cases, the body rejected the organ.
Other businesses succeeded. They brought in people who were technologically enabled, but were educators, collaborators, and empathetic colleagues. And the same applies to the AI challenge: there are simply not enough AI experts to fill the roles needed. Every company will need to bring in transformative leaders who can instill their knowledge throughout the company, and train the next generation.
Of course, this person will need to be strategic, data driven, with an in-depth understanding of emerging AI technology and its capability. But they will also be able to influence across multiple departments without alienating key players. They should be able to continuously explain WHY this journey is necessary, and bring people with them as the journey changes direction.
If your AI leader can’t articulate the opportunity both to the board and to team members, then all the investment will be wasted – and your business could be set back by years.
Don’t forget the role of the human in all this
Any organisation that uses the technology just to do things that humans are already doing will be putting it to waste. In data-heavy tasks, AI can do things that no human can possibly do. The role of the human will be auditing, approving and refining that work. People will be doing a lot less of the data gathering, number crunching and analysis, but they will still need to be there.
In more creative work, it’s likely that a new generation of ‘AI natives’ will use the technology to do entirely new, innovative and exciting things. But it’s also seen as unlikely that it will substitute for the human-to-human connection that people crave when consuming art and entertainment.
In story-led journalism, people will still want a human voice. AI can do wonderful things in data journalism, but it can’t fully lead an investigation or conduct a robust interview with a celebrity or politician. There will still need to be fact checking. You will still need humans to get the tone of voice right, and to make sure your content resonates.
Nevertheless, it’s wishful thinking to believe that no jobs will be displaced or automated out, particularly in back-office or administrative functions where there is already pressure to cut costs. But your audience will remain human, and they will want that human connection. Once again, the core DNA of your organisation cannot and should not be replaced by a machine. And nor should you want it to.
Data is already a precious commodity. It’s about to become even more so
“Generative AIs can be like really hyperactive interns”, one Chief Data Officer told me recently. “They can regurgitate a lot very quickly, but some of it is rubbish”. A recurring theme of our conversations has been that while AI will be able to do things that no human can do, it will need access to an excellent set of training data to ensure its output is accurate and reliable. Additionally, we are likely to see a sharp increase in demand for data scientists who really understand their industry verticals and will be able to ensure this happens.
Will organisations just give that data up for free? It feels unlikely. The competitive advantage of AI products won’t be in the quality of its engineering and technology, but in the quality of its training data. Any business information leaders reading this should bear that in mind, and begin developing AI pricing strategies accordingly.
The end is not nigh…
There are opportunities here as well – think of how much time your best people are currently spent engaged in repetitive tasks. What else could they be doing to create real value with all that time that will be freed up? Meanwhile, organisations who do project-based consultancy work could find themselves operating at a significantly higher margin, and able to justify taking on more work as a result. Content-led businesses are in a great place to take advantage of the new technology: but a clear view of how to incorporate it into your business will be critical. So the big question: who will be your Head of AI transformation?
Partner, Martin Tripp Associates
Martin Tripp Associates is an executive search firm that specialises in the media, entertainment, information and communications sectors, with clients which range from large multi-nationals through to pre-revenue start-ups. Based in London, they have conducted successful searches around the world, at C-suite and senior leadership level, across a diverse range of disciplines including creative, sales, product, technology, strategy and general management. Martin Tripp and Matt D’Cruz, the Co-Founders, are both former B2B journalists who have written on a broad range of subjects, including as headhunters.