AI Requires a Mixed Metaphor – Facing a Tsunami on a Rollercoaster

Do you find yourself on an emotional rollercoaster as you face the burgeoning AI industry? 

  • at the bottom, panicking that you will be out of business, replaced by massive computer horsepower with which you can’t compete,
  • climbing with curiosity,
  • ascending to euphoria as you contemplate the many ways AI will work for you, enhancing your capabilities,
  • then down to the depths again as you realize how much you don’t know?

One company I know has been in the business of developing AI for over 25 years. It is full of creative, innovative people driven by their curiosity about how they can improve productivity for their clients. As an organization, they are going through these massive cycles – first depressed that they will lose business because “everybody can do what we’re doing” and then excited because “we’re doing it differently.” Leaders everywhere try to make sense of AI and how they should respond.

And it’s not only AI. We live in turbulent times, enduring constant and rapid changes in social, economic, environmental, and geo /political domains. Natural disasters, international conflicts, war, and world health crises provide the backdrop and create a milieu ripe for unforeseen shifts in how we navigate our world. There is no field manual for leadership for what is to come. 

Yet leaders still need to lead. How do we identify needed change, create a vision, and take action in the face of uncertainty? How do we create an organizational culture that is genuinely agile to embrace and make use of the changes AI presents?

To welcome and exploit AI, we need to develop and exercise the C² Factor – the application of profound curiosity and relentless courage, continuously oscillating between the two. My book, The C² Factor for Leadership, reveals how champion leaders engage the synergy of curiosity and courage, moving along a path that looks like an infinity symbol to embrace and exploit the future. They frequently took calculated risks, moving into uncharted territories, with curiosity guiding them and with confidence that they would figure things out as they took action. They knew there were no guarantees and risks involved, but they had the courage to try.

When we are captured by our interest in AI’s potential or paralyzed by its threat, we are stuck in curiosity and need a good dose of courage. As leaders, we have to take action before we have all of the necessary information. AI is moving so fast we can’t possibly know everything about it. So we must pause investigating and call on our courage to move forward. We have not to get stuck in one place on the infinity circle, recognizing when we need to move along that circle toward courage and then back up around to curiosity again, not jumping from one to the other but moving in the direction of back and forth.

Here are some ways to access your courage:

Step back, breathe deeply, and calm the part of the brain that is programmed to be on the lookout for danger. Stay still and breathe until you feel solid inside.

  • Reconnect with yourself. Reflect on your mission and values. What are you trying to accomplish?
  • Notice that speed or being first isn’t always necessary. Apple became an enormously successful company by building on others’ ideas. 
  • Remind yourself of the challenges you have faced in the past and your capacity to persevere. Courage is strengthened by courageous action.
  • Remember that courage is taking action in the face of uncertainty for a worthy goal.

Instead of being trapped on the roller coaster in the AI tsunami, glide along the C² infinity circle of curiosity and courage and enjoy the ride.  

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