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Case study: Helping leaders at Company X use data and AI for good

February 21, 2023
Helen Edwards and other people working around a long table with lots of sticky notes during a workshop
By teaching them the basics of AI bias and fairness (with minimum viable math), leaders came away with an ethos of “responsible first.” 

When leaders at Company X, a Fortune 500 global retailer, wanted to understand how they might use advanced analytics and AI to help foster human connection, they turned to us at Sonder Studio for a novel perspective.

AI is a general-purpose technology which means it has the potential to drastically alter societies through its impact on pre-existing economic and social structures. In the early stages of GPT adoption, point solutions to narrow and specific use cases dominate how the technology is used. For example, electric motors replaced steam engines in the late 1800s.

In the case of AI, the easiest opportunities to spot are those that replace a human prediction. For example, what to buy next or who will most likely repay a loan.

GPTs are difficult for people to know what to do with it until enough systemic change has happened for it to be obvious. It’s easy to consider AI a solution for a problem, but generally not a good practice in technology management. Yet it’s important to allow for inspiration, for applications in other industries to inform about what’s possible. This is especially true in the case of AI due to its wide-ranging functional nature and many flavors.

AI can help humans do many things: think, know, feel, talk, see, move, and make. We worked with leaders so that they could answer: “How might we use machine capabilities to enhance human connection?”

By exploring case studies from other similar industries as well as orthogonal learnings, we helped Company X leaders develop a custom framework for spotting opportunities to use technology in human interactions so that humans feel more connected. Machines that could predict what associates might have to deal with next and give them a heads up, when to pay particular attention to a customer, and what new delightful experiences are possible for customers.

We encouraged leaders to not only ask, “can we use AI for this?” but “should we use AI for this?” By teaching them the basics of AI bias and fairness (with minimum viable math), leaders came away with an ethos of “responsible first.” 

This ethos was seen as vital for the brand. Yes, the company could listen, track, and surveil customers at all points in the omnichannel experience and make granular, emotion-based predictions, but should they? That is a question for leaders, not data scientists.

Leaders need to understand AI and advanced analytics because AI tears down the firewalls between decisions made at the front line (physical and digital), scaling micro-decisions across the business's operations and up the hierarchy. We helped Company X leaders understand both the new opportunities and responsibilities that come with AI.

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