Watson could keep business and world leaders from looking like idiots

Columnist Rob Enderle writes that an AI system like IBM’s Watson could help assure that U.S. Presidents and CEOs apply the hard-learned lessons of their predecessors to cut down on failures and repeat successes.

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This new model does not emulate Steve Jobs’ Apple, as it seems to pick and choose what requirements of the process are necessary as if the question was multiple choice; however, the answer should be all-of-the-above. It often seems like a company, after painstakingly discovering a path to success, tosses it out as a repeatable strategy because using it would be too easy. What actually seems to happen is that subordinates aren’t taught why steps in a successful process are important, so they skip them and failure results.

Watson to the rescue

At its heart, a system like Watson is a deep learning machine. Once taught it doesn’t automatically forget as we often do. It learns and then when given a question it presents what it has learned in an iterated hierarchy of choices. These choices have explanations so that the decision maker can then look at what the recommendations are and pick the best one that seems to match the problem they are facing.

For instance; were it asked about the best way to improve Obamacare it would likely give as the first item “don’t make this a priority in the first two years” and explain that there is too high a risk that it could cost control of the House of Representatives. Second, it would likely suggest that rather than focusing on the process, focus on reducing the costs of healthcare because that would result in the widest short-term benefit to the most people assuring re-election.

And finally, Watson would likely suggest spending time to fully understand the remaining dynamics of the problem and determine what small changes would have the largest impact focusing on those to reduce the overall risk of failure. All of this would be based on what it learned from the initial effort, changing this from an almost certain failure to an almost certain success.  

Watson and AI could maybe assure ‘Institutional Experiential Intelligence’

We have Watson and other AI efforts focused on practices like improved healthcare, intelligence, litigation and other functional areas in business and government. But I think the bigger benefit for this system would be to focus on assuring Institutional Experiential Intelligence so that Presidents and CEOs don’t have to constantly act as if they are the first chief executive ever and can better apply the hard-learned lessons of their predecessors to the new problems they face. This could not only assure all our jobs, but likely assure our nations as well.

[ Related: The future of AI is humans + machines ]

IBM argues compellingly that Watson should be used to enhance, augment, rather than replace people, I’m arguing that the most critical folks to enhance should be at the top because they have the most power to assure success or failure. In fact, one of the best uses of Watson might be to assure that the next and every subsequent IBM CEO is fully augmented, it could be a critical tool and a major part of IBM’s longevity and success.  

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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