On the sense and nonsense of forecasts. A commentary by Volker Gruhn, founder and chairman of the supervisory board of adesso SE.
Analysts, institutes, manufacturers and IT service providers are currently overflowing with forecasts about the effects of generative artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT. Not a day goes by without headlines about this in the media. Sometimes it’s about the transformation of individual professions and industries, while other times it’s about far-reaching changes in the economy as a whole. What is often forgotten in the process: This glimpse into the future provides little concrete guidance for companies looking to take action.
By the way, my headline is fictitious!
Who predicted the triumph of the smartphone?
The fact that forecasts do not always accurately predict the future becomes clear when we look at the topic of mobile business. Who correctly predicted the rapid triumph of smartphones and apps at the beginning of 2007, immediately after the presentation of the first iPhone? Who predicted the billion-dollar potential of this sector? Who expected the duopoly of Apple and Google back then? Now we are once again at the beginning of a development whose dimensions we can only guess at. We neither know what the individual AI applications will ultimately be able to do, nor where their limits lie. Nor can we estimate what implications they will have for society.
With a steady hand, fit for an uncertain future
At present, the field of generative AI is more like a rough sketch than a detailed map: applications come and go at a breathtaking pace. Today’s revolution can be tomorrow’s standard – or a quickly forgotten aberration. This does not mean that companies can simply push the issue aside until the market is firmly established. Such an attitude endangers their own competitiveness. Instead, those responsible must prepare their organization for an uncertain future head-on.
In other words, they should not rely on one scenario or solution, but instead create a culture of curiosity and learning. Openness, experimentation and risk-taking are part of any AI project. Otherwise, companies miss the opportunity to truly understand the opportunities and risks of the technology and use them wisely. In order to make informed decisions based on their own experience, employees need to be trained, new talent needs to be recruited and thus know-how gaps need to be closed. This may be less spectacular than the grand visions of the analysts. But in my view, it is the only way to survive in a world in which generative AI will be as commonplace as e-mails or apps are today.
Or to put it another way: Instead of proclaiming new initiatives after every market study, companies should rather implement more projects.
is the founder and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of adesso SE.