A couple of weeks ago, the INMA Product Advisory Council gathered on the subject of AI. I was keen to learn what they were working on and pick up on the buzz and excitement from the recent INMA World Congress and the many, many newsletters, articles and events on AI happenings around the media. And yet what I was met with was … apathy.
Usually discussions are lively, invigorating, and there are a lot of opinions. And yet AI — the buzziest of all things — bought the least excitement I have seen from this group.
Why? Because the big buzzy projects are not a priority right now. In fact, I would venture to say that companies with big bizzy AI projects are being led top down by the CEO. Usually I would say that is a bad thing, but as one CEO recently pointed out to me when I asked where it should sit in an organisation was plain and simple: with me as CEO.
Why, I ventured, surely this is a product thing. But no, AI is so big and can have such huge implications on the entire business that a CEO needs to understand the various aspects of it and lead on this issue.
I had been schooled and rightly so.
The advent of generative AI is an existential threat to this industry. That’s not a term I use lightly. As a consumer, I love ChatGPT. It helps me with research, framing things by sifting through many Web links. It even gave me some excellent ideas for a large brainstorm session I will be leading. And when it comes to news, I ask for the top stories, what I need to know. I can use simple prompts like, “Tell me more about …” or “Why did that happen?” or “What are the likely outcomes?” It’s amazing. As long as it’s not hallucinating, which is another issue for another day.
At no point do I hear any brand. This completely removes the top of funnel for news, which in itself may be an existential threat.
So yes, it’s a CEO thing.
And yet as we started talking about AI, any big buzzy projects any of us had heard about were mostly outside news or big bets CEOs were making. Where does that leave product?
Apparently with a little apathy.
To be fair, it’s not just the advisory council. It’s almost every product person I speak to. And I think that’s for one of two reasons: Either CEO top-down directive (sometimes that people don’t believe in as it’s too hasty, but not always). Or, more commonly, because it’s flying under the radar. It’s not fun sexy stuff. It’s boring applications that are efficient and make incremental changes.
I don’t think this is a bad thing. In fact I think it’s good because we don’t have all the information about how AI, particularly generative AI, is going to play out. But all this doesn’t mean that AI doesn’t have some very practical applications right now.
If you’d like to subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter, INMA members can do so here.