Replace me, with 1 medium AI, please

Last week was an exciting week at work as we took part in a Hackathon event at work. The challenge was to create a new service or product leveraging AI and Machine Language. Participating teams would be judged on the WOW factor, the potential disruption it would cause to existing Business Process and presentation of the idea. Similar to Shark Tank, except for the coverage.

Each team had around 8 participants. We racked our brains and debated furiously tearing apart each idea on its viability, disruption and wow factor. The judges wanted to see a working prototype, not just PowerPoint. It was a lot of fun, working for 36 hours straight, pulling all-nighters like those good old college days. We thought like entrepreneurs, researched like venture capitalists, and coded like there is no turning back now. Even though we did not win in the end, it was a great learning experience and a refreshing break from the daily humdrum. Here are my three key takeaways from learning to innovate.

  1. United we win - During the initial internal brainstorming session we were married to our own ideas and failed to see the value in other ideas. After some heated debates and no holds barred rejection process, we started coming together much like the Improv yes and game. This can be a fine line though as politeness can suppress honest feedback and status factors can impact trust. Daniel Coyle refers to this concept in his book The Culture Code. The team came together in the end, as co-workers became the new best friends. Unity is hard to build but is totally worth the effort.

  2. Disruption is exciting - During the brainstorming process, we started looking at everything that we do on a day to day basis both at work and in our personal lives through the disruption lens and the possibilities were unlimited. AI algorithms and data-driven machine learning can accelerate painstaking decision making for traditional businesses at work and optimize energy consumption at home. The trick is to feed the right data and let the machine learn through iterative processing

  3. Improve AI Skills - This is more of a personal resolution. There are so many AI options available in the marketplace ranging from Google Tensor Flow, AWS Artificial Intelligence, Azure Machine learning, Apache Prediction IO to Kaggle datasets, we need to learn more about what to use and when. Which AI model should we use to predict the next blockbuster or the next block party?

Robotics and AI are slowly creeping into our lives, and those who know how to fine-tune the algorithms will be making the big bucks. Now that's one party you don't want to miss out on!