By Bryan Kirschner, Vice President, Strategy at DataStax\n\nConsumers love smart personalization. Developers get fired up about building AI-powered apps. And just two months after ChatGPT launched, 100 million people have added tapping into the power of AI to their toolbox.\n\nThese signals point toward an \u201cAI everywhere\u201d future: one in which it\u2019s a competency of every firm, and a sidekick (or \u201cco-pilot,\u201d in Microsoft\u2019s lexicon) to every worker.\n\n"Cognitive capital" refers to the stock of knowledge, skills, and abilities that individuals use to create economic value. As humans gain more access to and facility with AI, and as organizations master using AI to equip people with greater immediacy, scope, and scale of knowledge than ever before, we\u2019re on the threshold of a massive increase in cognitive capital.\n\nProgressing down that path is table stakes for companies that want to remain relevant. However, the speed of delivering new use cases or the size of the data estate isn\u2019t enough to realize the promise of AI. There\u2019s a lot more that\u2019s required to separate tomorrow\u2019s AI winners from losers.\n\nHow organizations \u2018recreate the world\u2019\n\nCognitive capital is a subset of intellectual capital. The latter is a broad concept that also includes other types of intangible assets that organizations possess, such as patents, trademarks, customer relationships, and organizational culture.\n\nOrganizations that build a learning culture excel at building more and deeper customer relationships, because they internalize an insight offered in a 1991 Harvard Business Review article by Ikujiro Nonaka:\n\n\u201cA company is not a machine but a living organism. Much like an individual, it can have a collective sense of identity and fundamental purpose. This is the organizational equivalent of self-knowledge\u2014a shared understanding of what the company stands for, where it is going, what kind of world it wants to live in, and, most important, how to make that world a reality.\u201d\n\nIn these companies, the North Star for value creation is \u201cto re-create the world according to a particular vision or ideal.\u201d While modern AI expands the toolset for achieving this, other tools\u2014such as slogans, metaphors, and symbols\u2014may be \u201clow tech,\u201d but they\u2019re equally indispensable for innovation that moves the needle.\n\nWe can already see the power and promise of getting this right.\n\nTarget\u2019s affordable joy\n\nTarget is a power user of best-of-breed technologies for real-time AI (such as Apache Cassandra). The company is all in on AI, as this Forbes article posits:\u201cTarget can now use artificial intelligence (AI) to recommend products based on searches, to aid demand forecasting and ordering and all along the supply chain. AI is used for workload planning, assortment planning, pricing and promotion of products. It is also used for smaller initiatives such as investigating the quality of imagery that the company puts on the website, or to correct errors in item set up.\u201d\n\nBut metaphors and slogans are actually the tell behind their winning ways. \u201cJoy\u201d was mentioned 10 times in the company\u2019s Q4 2022 earnings call. Specifically, \u201caffordable joy\u201d is a concept that has been a unique and key differentiator for Target for decades.\n\nIn the transcript, executives offer the metaphor of making interactions a \u201cdestination, not just a means to an end.\u201d They promise to offer \u201cinspiration.\u201d\n\nAI success requires leadership\n\nAs customer expectations rise, every company in every industry will have little choice but to deploy more AI use cases (in ecommerce, for example, real-time substitution recommendations for items that are out of stock). But those that motivate their people with a strong vision will make the most of AI tools and new AI capabilities\u2013because they\u2019ll ask questions and imagine states of the world and new directions for customer relationships to evolve that other organizations can\u2019t.\n\nToday, ChatGPT can give you a serviceable, 9-point answer to the prompt \u201cHow might a retailer build a $1B annual revenue private label brand?\u201d Target has done it successfully 10 times (and trademarked each one along the way).The popular AI tool\u2019s answer to \u201cHow can a retailer create an affordable, joyful shopping experience for middle-class midwestern moms?\u201d was pretty good, too. But there\u2019s no AI-powered playbook for turning \u201cshopping of necessity on a budget\u201d into \u201cshow us your Tarzhay with enthusiasm.\u201d\n\nIf you want to lose, ignore AI. But if you want to lose with AI, neglect the proven power of employees motivated by a shared vision, in a learning culture. Only human leadership can create that.\n\nLearn how DataStax enables real-time AI.\n\nAbout Bryan Kirschner:\n\nBryan is Vice President, Strategy at DataStax. For more than 20 years he has helped large organizations build and execute strategy when they are seeking new ways forward and a future materially different from their past. He specializes in removing fear, uncertainty, and doubt from strategic decision-making through empirical data and market sensing.