Kevin Dewalt
Chief Executive Officer & co-founder

In any large enterprise, identifying opportunities for AI is a challenge because of the many open questions:

  • How do our people currently work?
  • What data do we have?
  • What additional data could we use?
  • Where are our processes constrained?
  • Is the technology mature enough to solve the problem?
  • Can we change human behaviors as necessary to adopt the solution?

Worse still, it can be difficult to discuss AI opportunities with business customers. They probably don’t understand AI, and they might even find it threatening.

After years of helping our clients work through these challenges, I’ve developed a few hacks to help overcome them. Here I’ll share my favorite one. I call it the “army of interns” hack.

The army of interns

The hack is pretty simple. Just ask your business partners the following question:

“Suppose I gave you a free army of interns to help you work more efficiently or create new opportunities for the company. What would you ask them to do?”

You might need to discuss the question with them before they fully absorb it. But soon enough they’ll have some ideas. I often hear ideas like these:

  • “I would ask them to read our contracts and highlight anything related to customer data.”
  • “I would give them the PDFs of our transaction statements. Then I’d ask them to enter the data into a spreadsheet that uses consistent and scalable formatting.”
  • “I would ask them to listen to the transcripts of our call center conversations and identify upsell opportunities.”

The ensuing discussion will surface AI opportunities.

Why the hack works

Our business partners don’t necessarily understand what AI can do. But they know what an intern can do. An intern is a reasonably intelligent person who has limited skills and no experience in the business domain. Because they’re usually a temporary resource, they need quick training and a specific, constrained task. 

You can’t quickly teach interns contract law. But you can give them a few examples of significant legal phrases. And you can teach them to find similar phrases in a contract.

These task constraints and training constraints are a good proxy for the type of problems AI can solve.

Limitations

The “army of interns” hack is great for surfacing opportunities that are based on existing workflows and work patterns within a single business unit. It’s less effective at identifying opportunities that require you to completely redesign processes that span many business units. 

Similarly, the hack doesn’t surface business opportunities that benefit from speed. An army of interns can’t help you get a competitive advantage by accelerating a business process from minutes to microseconds. 

Although you should consider AI opportunities that involve changes such as process redesigns and dramatic speed improvements, you will need different techniques to identify the best options. Explore our resources to learn more.

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