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Are you smarter than a squirrel?

Executives should ask themselves how AI will affect their business models in the future


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I came down to breakfast the other morning and my wife had an exasperated look on her face. When I asked what was wrong, she said, “I just want to be as smart as a squirrel!”

We have multiple bird feeders in our yard and she has purchased many devices to foil the squirrels’ ability to get to the feeders, but the squirrels always win! One morning I amused myself for an hour, using vegetable oil to grease the metal rods the bird feeders sit on and watching squirrels leap halfway up the pole and slide to the ground. Try it – it’s hilarious! (The oil eventually wears off and they get their prize.)

A question I’ve pondered lately is, “How smart will a CEO have to be to live in the world of artificial intelligence (AI)?”

Heck, how smart will any of us have to be?

IBM’s Watson is already able to solve complex problems, write poetry and outsmart squirrels.

(OK, it’s still working on the squirrels. …)

My interest is more curiosity than paranoia. After all, Captain Kirk occasionally outwitted Spock, and everything else on Star Trek has seemed to come true!

Although it’s hard to wrap our heads around what the relationship between machines and humans will be in the future – assuming assimilation doesn’t take place – it’s reasonable for every CEO to start asking,

“How will AI affect my business model?”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or Watson) to understand that automation will continue to displace repetitive tasks; but what happens when AI performs non-repetitive, creative thinking well?

If that makes your brain hurt, back off a bit and ask yourself what will your business environment look like in five years?

The fact that you cannot predict the future with complete accuracy doesn’t mean you don’t have an obligation as a leader to ask the question and continue to grapple with the possibilities.

Do you think Spock would’ve found humor in the squirrel sliding down the greased post?

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Todd Ordal

Todd Ordal is president of Applied Strategy®. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Todd is the author of Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be (Morgan James Publishing, 2016). Connect with Todd on LinkedIn, Twitter, call 303-527-0417 or email todd@toddordal.com.

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