There was plenty of interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) from IABC members in Sydney, with a fully booked session led by Jo Curkpatrick and Lee Hopkins of Better Communication Results and hosted by PwC on Monday 13 May 2019.
Lee and Jo were also delighted to find an audience that was both knowledgeable and eager to learn from one another. Questions raised from the floor—and there were many—highlighted broad experience with artificial intelligence across the communication profession.
Some were new to the corporate use of AI, others were interested in hearing about current uses and case studies of AI in change and engagement.
Artificial intelligence, it was discussed, did not have one simple definition. Indeed, there are as many different definitions as there are pundits trying to define it. One useful definition comes from The Internet Society: ‘Artificial intelligence (AI) traditionally refers to an artificial creation of human-like intelligence that can learn, reason, plan, perceive, or process natural language’. The two presenters honed that definition down to its working-level bare bones: ‘machines behaving intelligently’.
Also sought were definitions for machine learning and deep learning. Lee suggested a definition suitable for both machine and deep learning: “… a field of study that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed” Arthur Samuel, 1959.
The difference between machine learning and deep learning is slight but important. The following quote from iamwire makes the point:
In the case of machine learning, the algorithm needs to be told how to make an accurate prediction by providing it with more information, whereas, in the case of deep learning, the algorithm is able to learn that through its own data processing. It is similar to how a human being would identify something, think about it, and then draw any kind of conclusion.
Many members at the session were keen to hear about case studies on the use of artificial intelligence in business communication. It is certainly something Lee and Jo are following up, but in the meantime they suggested reviewing 100 user cases of AI tools.
There is little in the form of case studies that talk specifically to business communicators as a profession. However, the Marketing teams of many organisations have taken a firm grip on AI and there are plenty of case studies available on Marketing-led organisational initiatives. A list of case studies from Europe shows the diversity of AI initiatives, and Bernard Marr has a very useful list of case studies involving companies from around the globe.
However, the lack of case studies for business communicators is no reason to hold off on joining the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As Lee and Jo suggest, it is better to launch an initiative now and get some valuable runs on the board, than wait for a slower ball. With the number of companies launching AI initiatives growing daily, it is the savvy communicator who jumps on board now and learns all they can about AI, if not for the organisation they represent then for their own future employability.
On this point, Lee reminded us about our tardiness with the potential for social media for professional communicators. Back then many of us said we were too busy with business as usual and would get to social media when it eventually landed on our desk. As a result, the profession missed the opportunity to influence how their organisations would use these new social media tools and many business communicators were largely sidelined. Jo and Lee are certainly determined to do all they can to make sure business communicators are key stakeholders and influencers in this rapidly developing world of AI.
“Social media saw us on the back foot. Let’s not have that happen with artificial intelligence (AI). Let’s be on the front foot and lead.”Jo Curkpatrick
Beginning with the definition of artificial intelligence, ‘machines behaving intelligently’, Lee and Jo took us through to what we as communicators need to do if we are to engage successfully with our peers and our audiences in this new artificial intelligence age. They offered a useful framework to help make a start.
As PwC has done, Jo and Lee suggest organisations establish a community of excellence, and make sure Business Communication is a part of the community.
It’s obvious, but get everyone at the table—HR, Strategy and Marketing, as well as the IT and AI experts together. Blow up the silos as we need to work together if the AI transformation is to be successful.
Nor is it a surprise that identifying advocates will be useful; review your communication strategy as well, it needs to consider AI (including culture and ethics) and probably doesn’t; and make an effort to understand AI so that you can talk the talk and walk the talk.
But critically, be thoughtful, be human, ask questions, find answers – this disrupter is scary for some.
For the benefit of those interested in AI and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the presenters suggest the following book: What to do when machines do everything. And for a general introduction to the field of AI and its societal implications, this post gives a quick overview of two vitally important essays.
“Helps leaders think beyond their own organizational boundaries and embrace the future of artificial intelligence. The book’s practical advice not only explains how to apply machine-driven solutions at all levels of an organization, it also reveals the skills your employees need to ensure your business stays competitive in this coming age.”Theo Priestley, Global Evangelist, SAP
Lee and Jo concluded their presentation with some examples of tools being used and websites containing further tools links. A list of those websites is available as a pdf (see below)
The slides presented on the day are available for viewing on Slideshare and the presenters humbly suggest subscribing to their website blog to receive one email per week on AI topics. Also attached is a checklist business communicators can use to come to terms with the introduction of AI into the workplace (see below).