Embracing Ethical AI for Growth and Innovation

Understanding how to effectively embrace AI can unlock huge benefits. Learn strategies and best practices that have helped businesses power up with AI technology.

date iconSeptember 22, 2023     tag iconTechnology

Beginning your AI journey

AI is fast becoming an indispensable tool to help companies improve their efficiency and effectiveness, helping to deliver growth and unlock innovation. Amid the ongoing debate about the future role of AI in our society, it’s becoming clearer that to stay ahead and prime themselves for future growth businesses worldwide should be looking to harness its potential.

With well-thought-out and strategic implementation, AI can help deliver greater efficiency, productivity, data-driven insights, cost savings and a competitive edge – among other benefits. But when trying to reap the benefits of AI tech, what are some of the considerations businesses need to take into account? How do the ethics and governance implications of AI impact the ways businesses should adopt these tools? Here we’ll take a look at all these questions and more.

Why strategically implementing AI matters

Business leaders looking to take advantage of the potential of AI technology should think about how it can be strategically implemented. Mapping out the areas where AI can be most effective and defining how it can help achieve your goals is a crucial starting point.

Some of the areas that might see the quickest benefits from AI implementation include automating repetitive and mundane tasks, analyzing data to produce valuable insights, and improving customer service experience, for example with an AI-powered chatbot. But instead of an ad-hoc approach, a worthwhile exercise would be to design an AI-implementation roadmap, outlining the necessary steps for integrating AI into the day-to-day operations of your business.

Start with a research and development phase, think about a plan to train employees on AI usage and consider collaborating with AI experts to inform your AI-integration plan. If your business starts using AI in an overly ad-hoc way, it can lead to all sorts of problems further down the road with efficiency, visibility and particularly compliance - which we’ll be talking about later.

Beyond AI as a threat: How to harness its real potential

The arrival of so-called ‘disruptive’ technologies is often a sink-or-swim moment for many businesses. In future decades, we may be comparing the proliferation of AI tech to the arrival of the internet or the creation of the steam engine. The development of many new technologies often brings concerns about the threat they may pose. And while thinking through the threats is wise, it’s also vital to fully understand the opportunities that such new technologies allow.

A common concern about the proliferation of AI technology is its impact on jobs. Rather than treating AI as a threat to jobs, it might be more insightful to think about how AI can empower workers to become more productive. While people might have to learn new skills and embrace AI tools in their jobs, they should be freed up to work on more human tasks that AI tools really struggle to master, like creative and strategic work. The UN’s International Labor Organization recently released a report outlining that generative AI is more likely to augment rather than replace most jobs. For example, a content writer might use AI tools to generate draft outlines for their articles and pivot to work more as an editor for the raw AI content.

An effective way to promote responsible AI use within your business might be to run a program similar to Acolad’s AI Ambassador program. The idea is to foster AI literacy and champion AI adoption across clients and employees. By placing an AI ambassador in every team, you can raise awareness of its potential and help to make AI use instinctive for all - and make it easy to share a framework of best practices by filtering knowledge through these ambassadors.

So, moving away from seeing AI as a threat, it might be much more productive to view it as a tool to unlock new opportunities for productivity gains, growth and innovation. And one of the keys to effectively integrating AI is being open and transparent about how your organization uses it.

Ethical AI: Why responsibility and transparency matter

While leveraging AI can help deliver growth and productivity benefits, it’s also responsible to recognize and try to minimize the potentially disruptive aspects and risks of the technology. Ethical considerations like privacy, security and compliance in the use of AI tech all need to be thought through.

This is where the concept of ethical AI comes in. Making sure AI is developed and used in a fair, transparent and accountable way will go a long way to building trust and sustainability with the use of AI tech.

Implementing ethical AI is not necessarily straightforward. It’s important to first consider all the risks implementing AI into your business might bring, for example, bias and discrimination, and work towards mitigating them. Because AI tools are based on human input, they can be susceptible to the same biases that exist in our societies, such as stereotypical representations of women or racial biases. Avoiding these biases requires a proactive approach, like developing ethical guidelines and frameworks for using AI and being transparent about the processes where AI is used. Monitoring and auditing AI systems will help ensure they’re used in a more ethical way, and help with another consideration, compliance.

When it comes to compliance, the EU is currently in the process of developing its first major piece of legislation on the use of AI, the EU AI Act, to classify the risks of AI based on different applications where it’s used. With international and national governments looking more closely at the potential impacts of AI, it’s prudent to think about what responsibilities and legal requirements your business may have to meet.

Security and privacy are also vital considerations. Because AI models rely heavily on an input of data, it is important to have a framework to set out the kind of information colleagues are free to input into AI tools, and what should be kept away. This is a particular concern when using third-party AI tools, where your business may not have control over where any information fed into the tool is stored and accessed. Without strict controls, proprietary data or customer information could be part of a data breach. Rigorous data protection protocols and educating colleagues who handle sensitive information on these risks can help you avoid any pitfalls.

Constructing an ethical AI framework for your business will put you in the best position to avoid the pitfalls that future regulation of the technology might bring. The EU AI Act is seeking to ensure AI systems are “safe, transparent, traceable, non-discriminatory and environmentally friendly”, so taking these aspects into consideration will help avoid compliance pitfalls - and we’ll take a more in-depth look at compliance in a separate section below.

Beyond compliance and transparency, handling AI in an ethical way can help companies attract clients and colleagues who value ethical practices and build a positive reputation in the market. That’s not to mention the benefit of avoiding legal and financial consequences that unethical use of AI might present.

Want to know more about how AI language technology can help your business?

Bring your own AI: Empowering employees

Bring Your Own AI (BYOAI) is a concept designed to allow for employees’ independence to use AI tools within your organization’s business ecosystem. Similar to Bring Your Own Device, the idea is that employees are encouraged to use their own AI tools, like ChatGPT Pro licenses, in their own roles.

Rather than requiring employees to use specific tools, they are empowered to work more efficiently and comfortably with the AI tools of their own choice. As AI tools become more commonplace, it’s reasonable to expect that people will develop preferences and specialisms in the AI tools they choose.

This is a slightly more hands-off approach than many businesses take, but in the future workplace where many workers may be expected to augment their role with the help of AI tools, it could become crucial to attracting and retaining excellent candidates. Through this, employees get the freedom to maximize their productivity and engagement, rather than a top-down approach of training them in specific tools they may not know how to make the most of. However, this approach should be paired with strong policies on data protection and security.

Constructing a healthy AI environment with compliance

Whatever the approach you take to integrating AI, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of guidelines and policies to guide employees when using these tools. As we spoke about earlier, there is an increasing awareness of the potential pitfalls of data security with AI. Future legislation could put more onus on businesses to ensure frameworks are in place to ensure the responsible use of AI tools.

While more awareness is good, it’s better to have concrete processes or frameworks. Earlier we spoke about having a roadmap to implement AI, and that roadmap will almost certainly include a compliance program to educate and inform employees on the risks of AI and its responsible use. Remember, being open and transparent about this approach will help build trust with clients and other stakeholders.

Some common principles of AI regulation include developing a clear and concise understanding of how your business uses AI. A robust compliance program, possibly with a dedicated AI team, can be assigned the responsibility of AI regulation and oversight. They can help develop an organizational understanding of how your business uses AI. This helps deliver clear ownership of the task of building compliance into other departments that will use AI in their work. And a dedicated team can help deliver a more cohesive strategy with effective governance.

Don’t forget about suppliers and third-party vendors and how they use AI - and therefore its implications for your customers. Know about their AI-powered software and datasets used for AI training. Risk frameworks and impact assessments can really help. By documenting each AI system and process along with its associated risks, you’ll be better placed to mitigate those risks. In terms of practical help on this, Unesco has a useful methodology to conduct an ethical impact assessment. While designed for government officials, it can be insightful for business leaders too. Other national bodies have similar AI risk frameworks, like the NIST in the USA.

All this said, while promoting compliance is important to enabling transparency and responsible AI use, it’s important to strike a balance between these business-critical needs, while still making room for teams to use AI in an innovative and adaptive way.

Power-up AI with business-critical prompts

Business-critical prompts refer to the specific inputs or queries provided to an AI model that are essential for achieving your important business objectives. These prompts are carefully crafted to extract relevant and actionable insights from the AI system, which can then be used to make informed decisions, solve problems or optimize processes. Think about your business’s most pressing needs, and what prompts might give you insights to directly address them.

When defining your business-critical prompts, it’s important to make them clear and specific to avoid inaccurate or irrelevant outputs from the AI model. They should also align directly with your business goals and challenges, focused on areas where AI can provide valuable insight or solutions, like when analyzing large datasets. Such prompts can also be written to help predict market trends, identify customer preferences, optimize supply chains and more. Risk management, resource allocation and problem solving are also areas which can benefit from business-critical AI insights.

Remember that as with any AI inputs, it’s vital to iterate, continuously learn and improve your business-critical prompts. As any experienced user of ChatGPT will know, the quality of AI outputs can increase dramatically when you iterate and give precise feedback to shape future outputs.

Assessing any risks associated with your prompts, such as potential ethical issues and biases, is important to make sure you get reliable outputs. But the right prompts are probably one of the most powerful ways to leverage AI to unlock the true potential of your business.


Summing up: Navigating a path to growth with AI

Implementing AI in a strategic, responsible, and transparent way can help businesses unlock their full potential for growth and innovation. By mapping out the areas where AI can be most effective, designing an AI implementation roadmap, and fostering AI literacy among employees, businesses can start using AI tools effectively and efficiently.

However, it's important to remember the ethical considerations related to AI, such as privacy, security, and compliance. Developing an ethical AI framework, working towards mitigating potential risks and biases, and promoting responsible AI use within the organization can help businesses build trust and sustainability with the use of AI tech. By embracing the potential of AI and taking a responsible approach, businesses can stay ahead and prime themselves for future growth.

And to finish in the spirit of the transparency we’ve advocated, we thought it would be prudent to say this was produced with the help of AI tools including ChatGPT and Notion.so - with a healthy dose of human input too!

date iconSeptember 22, 2023     tag iconTechnology

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