An increasing number of companies are adopting some form of Artificial intelligence and Big data to drive their innovation effort.
As we have explored in my recent post, there is a difference between incremental and disruptive innovation. Now the question is: which type of innovation do AI and Big data foster?
Both AI and Big data are based upon rational thinking; actually, they aim at boosting our ability to rationalise our decisions as managers operating within an established strategy.
For this very reason, AI and Big data foster incremental innovation. Let me give you an example; knowing that your customers shop more at the weekend might suggest you offering discounts during weekdays. There is no need to update your strategy to do that, the assumptions in your business model don't change.
Disruptive innovation, on the other hand, is not the byproduct of rational and incremental thinking. Therefore AI and Big data fall short in this.
Disrupting innovation requires the ability to shift our perception in one or more parts of our business model. I used the coffee shop example in my previous post, in there the change in attitude relates to the value that the store generated for the customers.
Creativity, not rationality is the primary source of disruptive innovation. Creative thinking is a luxury reserved to humankind. Computers, as smart as they can and will be, beat us (badly) at calculus, defeat our ability to rationalise our decisions under conditions of certainty.
A machine is not able to develop a sense of perceptions outside any given rule, in other words, we can't outsource our creativity to a computer.
While companies need both incremental and disruptive innovation, the latter is the one we as managers need to put to use. We can rely on computers (to some extent) for doing the rational thinking for us, creative thinking, on the other hand, remains our ultimate, 'human' challenge.