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Reflections on Course5’s ‘Scaling the Human-AI Enterprise’ Conference

Events during COVID have been a mixed bag. It is nice to not have to travel, but there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction with presenters and fellow attendees. Still, with over a year of practice and experimentation, virtual events are increasingly compelling.

The best events instill a sense of possibility. They feature presenters who awaken in attendees a sense of energy for taking action. This happens at both in-person and virtual events. In fact, I’ve been to some in-person events where there are so many people in attendance that most of us end up watching the presenter on a large screen, not much different from watching from home.

Course5 Intelligence held its second annual virtual conference on July 13 and 14. We had over 20 presenters, including keynotes from Forrester analyst Michele Goetz and AI-thought leader James Taylor. As one of the event organizers, I am biased, of course, but I found the content to be inspiring, even beyond my inflated expectations!

I’d like to share some reflections on the event.

The name Scaling the Human-AI Enterprise is centered on three themes:
  1. The importance of scale as AI emerges from the lab and becomes real
  2. The collaborative, synergistic nature of what people can accomplish when they leverage the power of AI
  3. The role of the Enterprise

This last theme can, by design, be read several ways. Enterprise conjures images of large, global companies. Most of Course5’s clients fall into this definition of the word. We are excited by the leverage these large companies are starting to achieve by applying AI across their operations.

But small and medium-sized businesses also stand to benefit. As Michele Goetz mentioned, “It’s not the tech you have, it is how you use it!” AI is all about sharing and connecting intelligence. That applies to both humans and machines. It definitely applies to humans plus machines.

But just as the best song lyrics have dual meanings, another way of reading “enterprise” is akin to endeavor or opportunity. Scaling the Human-AI Enterprise implies that we have before us an opportunity to consider the concept of humans-plus-AI as a combination worth amplifying; worth expanding for impact.

Each of the speakers at the event spoke about how they are fusing humans and AI to improve their business and to fuel growth. I’ll share several comments and concepts that stood out to me (this list is not meant to be exhaustive).

Milan Kumar, CIO of ZF Wabco, talked about how using two different kinds of bots, for example a security bot and a functional bot, in conjunction with each other, one might create a system to correct for bias in each system.

Dr. Lynn Abbott, professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Virginia Tech, spoke about AI in computer vision for automobiles. He mentioned the adage that cars have become computers with wheels. By combining different types of sensors, disparate systems will be able to cover each other’s weaknesses. With this comment, we saw a theme emerge around an approach toward AI that combines systems to strengthen the overall system.

Derek Gominger, COO of eCommerce at Lenovo, mentioned that AI models often miss context. By combining AI systems with human contextual knowledge, such as around market conditions or customer motivation, companies can better create offers that resonate with consumers.

Kalindi Mehta, Head of Insights and Analytics, North America at Colgate-Palmolive, encouraged the audience to look for ways to add AI to every business process and said that a partnership model can accelerate progress. “We don’t want to wait until we can get things done internally. Start off getting external help.” Music to my ears!

Forrester Analyst Michele Goetz shared examples of companies from a variety of industries that have adopted the adage that ‘wherever there is data, it can be stitched together to streamline operations.

All of that, and more, was from day one. On day two, we heard even more wisdom from our esteemed presenters.

James Taylor, entrepreneur, author, and speaker on creativity, innovation and AI, encouraged us to use machines to reclaim our childhood creativity. Humans ask questions and machines provide analysis. One idea that James shared that I have incorporated into my daily practice has been to have a request for my subconscious as I go to bed. Preload the question two hours before sleep. I have started to see some answers to challenging opportunities emerge by following this advice.

Tarun Kataria, Senior Director of Advanced Analytics and ML at Mars, shared the idea that rather than over-focusing on Machine Learning, we should consider how we can be learning machines.

TS Balaji, VP, Experience Design & Customer Experience at Cox Communications, spoke about next steps in the survey world. He mentioned that we’re starting to see AI-enabled survey platforms predict experiences in real-time. He suggested we look at experiences through the lens of journeys rather than as discrete transactions.

I had the fortune to interview Hetal Patel, EVP, SmartAudio Insights & Analytics at iHeartMedia. We talked about another Human + Machine approach, this time helping ad sales teams be more accurate in representing iHeart audiences to advertisers. Definitely worth checking out the video!

Tatiana Sorokina, Solutions Director, Data Science & Artificial Intelligence at Novartis, shared that to win, pharma companies will need distinctive customer experiences, as well as differentiated drugs. Those experiences span a complex array of stakeholders across multi-year journeys. AI will help assemble and analyze the data across those journeys, while looking for anomalies and optimization opportunities.

So many great suggestions! And that’s just the tracks I attended. My colleague Joseph Sursock curated a separate track with a similar level of high-quality suggestions. I encourage you to watch the videos to find the messages that will help you transform your business.

While I look forward to the time when I can safely connect with industry peers in person, I am finding inspiration in many virtual events. Based on feedback we received about our virtual event, I am not alone in drawing energy and ideas via the virtual format.

If you were not able to join us live, you can access the recorded content either via the link below or the email we sent to registrants.

Watch on-demand sessions:
Course5 Compass: Scaling the Human-AI Conference



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David McBride

David McBride is a 13-year veteran of the analytics industry, having held analytics leadership roles in media, retail, technology settings. David is passionate about helping...
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