Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Artificial intelligence is everywhere. For the past few years, the internet has been awash in article after article on what AI can do for your business, and with good reason: Even in its relative infancy, AI is already changing the game in nearly every aspect of operations, from marketing, to IT, to accounting.
It’s not just a passing fad, either. A report from PwC found that 67% of executives see the future potential of AI to automate processes and optimize business efficiency. That same analysis found that AI is projected to boost global GDP by 14% — or $15.7 trillion — by 2030.
It’s clear that AI has the capacity to give companies significant competitive advantage — if it’s deployed correctly. “While many AI and machine learning deployments fail, in most cases, it’s less of a problem with the actual technology and more about the environment around it,” Harish Doddi, CEO of Datatron, tells ZDNet. Moving to AI “requires the right skills, resources, and systems.”
Like everyone else, my company Jotform is exploring how we can best use AI to improve our business. To do it, we’re following a formula I use whenever I undertake any new endeavor. It’s only three steps, but it’s as close to a surefire guide to success as I think there is.
Every important development in the world began as a dream.
The only way to guarantee you won’t reach your biggest goals is to never set them. The bigger the dream, the more resistance you’ll probably encounter along the way. That’s where the power of believing in yourself comes in — after all, if you don’t think you can realize your dream, no one else will either.
That said, even the most confident among us are susceptible to moments where we’re convinced we’re doomed to failure. Successfully working through those moments means effectively managing that internal dialogue, Tammi Kirkness, life coach and founder of Vision Scope Coaching, tells HuffPost.
“They’ve been able to master it [that inner voice],” she says. “Once they’ve recognized the existence of it, they continuously acknowledge and manage it in a way that helps to motivate and encourage their pursuits.”
In my case, my current goal is to transform Jotform to an AI-powered company. This won’t be a minor transition — it’s going to be a long road to figuring out what solutions will work for us and how to implement them. Even so, I believe it’s worth it, and even more importantly, I believe we’ll succeed.
Create a roadmap
Now that you’ve dreamt up a goal, it’s time to figure out how you can achieve it. This stage can be daunting, but keep in mind that nothing worthwhile has ever been completed in a single day.
It’s not necessary to plan out every step of your map at first, but you do need to have a basic understanding of potential paths and what it will take to pursue each. What resources do you need, and how do you acquire them?
For us, I know our AI roadmap is going to require considerable research and training. As Forbes notes, any business looking to make the transition needs to lay a lot of groundwork: Some of this means taking concrete steps, like migrating data to cloud storage and ensuring that data is structured. The other part is actually understanding AI’s capabilities and limitations, which includes understanding our AI-driven goals and having a clear vision for implementation, scaling and growth. One study from Harvard Business Review found that when it comes to AI, “highly ambitious moon shots are less likely to be successful than ‘low-hanging fruit’ projects that enhance business processes.” We have to be careful to plan for the realm of what’s actually possible, rather than getting carried away by the hype.
The transition from having a dream to drawing a roadmap can be a moment of reckoning for many companies. If our hope was to replace customer service with chatbots (which it’s not), we would have a problem, because that’s not currently a practical use for AI.
Even after you plot your course, you have to plan to be flexible. As Jeremy Bloom put it, “your journey will start at point A, but point B will not be linear: There’s often no straight line between the two.”
A bumpy road, however, is not a reason to give up. One project we’ve worked on for years is classifying forms. We’ve tried a lot of different strategies, but have yet to figure out how to make it practical. But we’re still trying, because we’re confident that the right approach is out there — we just have to find it.
You have a dream and you know how to get there. Congratulations! Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Hard work is about more than just putting your nose to the grindstone (though that’s certainly part of it). It’s also about improving your knowledge and understanding of a given topic, and expending the resources necessary for that growth to happen.
At Jotform, we’re putting our roadmap into action. We’ve brought in a consultant who has helped major companies from Apple to Adobe implement AI. Already, our data team is practicing putting their new knowledge to use, working on projects that range from classifying users by industry to catching spammers. We also executed a company-wide hack week, giving every department the chance to think about how AI can improve their operations.
These are incremental steps, but they are all crucial. Undoubtedly, we’ll encounter setbacks and roadblocks, but that’s okay: The more we’re challenged, the more we’ll understand, and the more we’ll grow.
This formula doesn’t just apply to AI: It works for any endeavor you set out to achieve, whether it’s writing a novel or going to space. Have a dream, figure out how to get there, and then put in the work.