Artificial Intelligence Requires Real Intelligence

Not a day goes by without a debate about the pros and cons of artificial intelligence (AI).  So many sources indicate how AI equals or exceeds the intelligence of humans.  As companies pour money into AI, I’d like to offer some thoughts that may adjust your mindset.

While there is certainly promise in technologies that can contribute to many areas, such as reading, writing, speaking, and even product design, we cannot ignore some basics, including reading, writing, and math.  An over-dependency on AI for simple things like writing a research paper or solving a problem will lead to complacency, and an outgrowth of complacency is ignorance and vulnerability.   Vulnerability in business can lead to a loss of market share and a company’s competitive edge.

Today’s leaders need to focus on integrative thinking, that’s a result of education, experience, and a curiosity that builds the mental bench strength required to compete.   In my opinion, you cannot take a shortcut to real intelligence.  AI isn’t curious. People are.  AI can’t check its gut. People can.  AI can’t apply reasoning to complex organizational issues. People do.


With this in mind, here are a couple of the key skills that leaders need to hone their real (business and leadership) intelligence:

  1. Strategic Thinking.  There are so many moving parts in a business, it can be difficult to see how it’s all connected.  To fine-tune your ability to think more strategically, you have to be able to zoom in and examine situations at a granular level and then zoom out to see things from a more holistic vantage point. The more you do this, the more you’ll develop the ability to see patterns and connect the dots.
  2. Undestanding Customer Needs.  Without customers, there’s no business.  It doesn’t matter what department you work in or what role you play. If you want to get ahead, you need to understand who your company’s customers are, what products they buy, and why they choose your products over competitive offers.  Yet, customer needs are transient, and preferences shift without notice.  As a strategic thinking leader, you need to ensure you’re keeping an eye on your company’s customers.
  3. Mastering The Numbers.  Every decision made in a business has a financial consequence.  You may not like accounting or finance, but you must master the numbers.  You can learn a lot by listening to analyst calls of public companies, working with your CFO, or even taking some classes.
  4. Solving Problems.   When there’s a gap between what’s expected and what happens, that’s a problem.  When your revenue falls short of expectations, the variance represents a problem. How did the signals get missed when a sales forecast to a specific customer group or segment exceeds expectations (a positive variance)?  When a process becomes too cumbersome and costly, impacting product quality or customer expectations, that’s a problem. Problems are everywhere, and the astute businessperson must be able to drill down into the details to find the root cause and pull back to see how to solve the problem, not just treat the symptom.

With all of this, it comes down to developing business acumen. The reason I teach business acumen is to help people think.  Business Acumen Institute is not about artificial intelligence; it’s about building real intelligence. Pick up a copy of The Business Acumen Handbook or visit us at to learn more.

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