Adopting an AI-First Mindset: 6 Essential Steps

Jon Knisley
Written by:
Jon Knisley

AI’s market excitement and business opportunity have forced more companies to revisit their strategy and make deeper investments in technology to catalyze growth, streamline operations, and curate innovative products and services. While becoming an AI-first company is unrealistic for most organizations, adopting an AI-first mindset is feasible and can help unlock unprecedented opportunities for growth.


The path to an AI-first mindset is a strategic journey that demands careful planning, agile execution, and an unyielding commitment to continuous learning. The speed at which technical capabilities increase and ongoing economic disruptions require action and strong partners. Companies that embrace an AI-first mindset will do business faster, better, and cheaper, but they will also be at greater risk. Adopting an AI-first mindset is more complex than flipping a switch; it requires strategic planning and execution. Because the odds are NOT forever in your favor, nurturing this approach is critical to winning in the market.


Facts Don’t Lie

In 2023, enterprises worldwide spent $166 billion on AI solutions (AI software, hardware, and services), and according to a recent IDC report, that spending is expected to grow 27% per year to $423 billion by 2027. Despite the massive spending increase, a new global Boston Consulting Group study reveals that during the past two decades, only 26% of corporate transformations successfully created value in both the short and long terms. In an era of technological advancements, geopolitical tensions, and economic turmoil, standing still is akin to moving backward.


Despite the long odds of success, AI can help companies do better. According to McKinsey research, the impact on operations is estimated to be as high as $10 trillion to $15 trillion. So, to help combat market hype and operational value with dismal success rates, 72% of executives purposely exercise restraint with generative AI investments. Only 27% in the 2024 Accenture Pulse survey said their organizations are ready to scale up generative AI, and 44% said it will take more than six months.


Since transitioning into an AI-first company is a moonshot at best for most companies, how can organizations adopt an AI-first mindset to improve performance and become market leaders? Read on for six steps to shepherd your organization along this transformative path.


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1. Conduct an AI-Readiness Assessment:

Embarking on the journey to an AI-first mindset begins with a comprehensive AI-readiness assessment. This key step involves thoroughly evaluating your existing technology infrastructure, the quality and availability of data, and your team’s skills and capabilities. A meticulous identification of potential gaps lays the groundwork for a robust AI integration. This stage also necessitates setting clear, achievable goals and pinpointing key performance indicators (KPIs) that can track the impact of AI on your business processes.


2. Run a Series of Pragmatic Pilots:

Following the readiness assessment, the next milestone is to launch a pilot project. Choose a business process, product line, or customer service function that can benefit from AI integration. The project should be manageable in scale and scope with unambiguous objectives. The pilot project provides an excellent platform to test the AI technology, acquire real-world insights, and evaluate the results vis-a-vis the predetermined KPIs.

3. Undertake Large-Scale Change Management:

Adopting an AI-first mindset necessitates a significant shift in your technological approach and organizational culture. Therefore, effective change management is critical to facilitating a smooth transition. This involves articulating the benefits of AI to all stakeholders, addressing any resistance or apprehensions, and fostering an environment conducive to embracing novel technologies.


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4. Upskill Internal Capabilities:

The transition to AI necessitates the development of certain expertise and skills within your team. Strategies may involve hiring new talent, upskilling current team members, or blending both. Regular training sessions and workshops can equip team members with the latest AI trends and applications. Furthermore, cultivating a continuous learning and innovation culture can empower your organization to fully exploit AI’s potential.


5. Reengineer the Enterprise:

Process optimization is crucial to successfully deploying AI in an enterprise as it prepares the organization for the changes that AI will bring, ensuring that the transition is as smooth as possible and that the full benefits of AI can be realized. This concept is not new, as Michael Hammer often noted in the 90s that “automating a mess yields an automated mess.” AI is no different – applying it to a lousy process makes it worse. Remember, the goal is not just to implement AI but to improve efficiency and effectiveness and to provide value to the organization.

6. Establish an AI Design Authority:

Establishing an AI Design Authority is the final step in adopting an AI-first mindset. This body or individual oversees the AI strategy, setting the AI vision and direction and ensuring alignment with the overarching business objectives. The AI Design Authority is pivotal in steering AI initiatives, making key decisions, and ensuring that AI delivers tangible business value.


Start Now, Think Big, Go Fast

Executives cannot hide from AI. The surge in market interest and the potential for business advancement has forced companies to reevaluate their strategies and invest more deeply in technology. Although transforming into an AI-first company is not practical for most companies, embracing an AI-first mindset is achievable and can pave the way for unparalleled growth opportunities. The journey is a strategic process that requires meticulous planning, flexible execution, and a steadfast dedication to continuous learning. The rapid advancement of technical abilities and persistent economic disruptions necessitate immediate action and robust partnerships. Firms that adopt an AI-first mindset can conduct business more quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively, but they will also face greater risks.


To understand how best to enable your organization to harness the power of AI and drive sustainable business growth, let’s talk.

Written by:
Jon Knisley