Reframing Innovation in an AI World

The following blog was posted in the July 2019 edition of Contractor Connections, a BSCAI publication.

July 11, 2019   |   by: Yasser Youssef, President of The Budd Group 

“Good morning, Yasser. It’s 5 a.m. The weather today is sunny and the temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit.” 

As Alexa wakes me in the morning, she automatically dims my bedroom lights and plays piano music. AI, or artificial intelligence, gives us many smart tools and resources to enhance our living spaces. I have recently realized that the term “AI” is becoming more popular, referring to everything from my Alexa to the super-intelligent robots that do a human’s work in half the time. I have found it helpful to refer to a baseline definition in discussions related to AI, such as this one from The English Oxford Living Dictionary.

 “AI (or Artificial Intelligence) is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”

In a recent Deloitte survey of 250 executives familiar with how their companies are thinking about intelligent technologies, nearly three out of four said that they expected AI to transform their organizations substantially within three years. In the facilities management industry, we are beginning to see some incredible innovations based on AI that make facilities, machinery, systems and building occupants working in sync to deliver greater outcomes. 

When you consider AI, here are some fundamentals:

1. AI enhances output, or improves results. If your business today is not successful or profitable, AI may not be your solution yet. AI will help you enhance what is already working, or take that to the next level, versus taking something that is broken and fixing it. 

2. AI should be supporting automating routine human decisions or actions with higher success rates. It is easy to lose track of that when one is attempting to automate in general. Robotic scrubbers would be an excellent example of replacing human behavior and the risks associated with it. A more reliable, intelligent machine can deliver consistent results at a faster pace and lower-risk level.

 3. AI can also better inform us about customer trends or preferences. For example, automating customer satisfaction surveys after every completed work order can give you quick insight on a number of critical service elements. Once you aggregate that data, you can identify some leading indicators around customer desires for future services, such as response time, follow-up, cost, etc. 

4. AI in facilities can help us connect a variety of systems together to help us paint a more complete picture of the facility. For example, AI can connect a building’s access control system with its HVAC system and density of occupants to provide the climate control conditions to optimize work output and reduce energy consumption.  

5. AI can help us protect the environment by more effectively managing the distribution and consumption of natural resources and energy that people would normally have to do. Some examples include robotic machinery that recycles used water, changing it from dirty to clean.  Another would be irrigation systems that can measure soil moisture and air moisture combined with plant material type to determine the perfect amount of irrigation required. Don’t you hate it when you systems run even if it is raining?

Humans are innovative. I mean, look at how far we’ve come in all aspects of work and life. AI does not replace the human innovation experience; rather, it creates new and unimaginable opportunities for speed and agility in the innovation process. Are you wondering how to enhance the innovation process in your business? If you are not, then you are asleep! If you are, consider how AI can help you get there faster and deliver greater outcomes.

Yasser Youssef is the president of The Budd Group, one of the leading facility service companies in the country and a North Carolina-based company that provides facility support services in the Southeast. Throughout his career, Youssef has met leaders from all backgrounds and believes leadership is for everyone. Over the past few years, he has developed an affinity for writing and contributing thought leadership and is often asked to speak to businesses throughout the country about authentic leadership.

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