NetElixir was delighted to host Jerry Wind, the Lauder Professor Emeritus and Professor of Marketing at Wharton Business School, for a webinar in May, How To Prepare For The Future Of Digital Marketing: Fireside Chat With Wharton Professor Jerry Wind. We were lucky to have Professor Wind join us previously for an in-depth discussion of his eight principles for innovative transformation, and we wanted to share some NetElixir insights on generative and conversational AI and creating a culture of experimentation, inspired by our discussion with Professor Wind.
Professor Wind founded the Wharton Think Tank. He has authored or co-authored and edited 30 books and has received four major marketing awards. Professor Wind sits on the advisory board of the Lauder Institute. He co-founded the Reichmann University, the first private non-profit university Israel, and he is working closely with Amelia, an enterprise conversational AI company. His most recent book, Transformation in Times of Crisis, has been a big hit, and it was terrific to have him with us to connect the key principles highlighted in the book with the evolution of and opportunities afforded by generative and conversational AI.
What is a Culture of Experimentation?
A culture of experimentation is an environment that encourages people to come up with new ideas and test them out, where failure is not only tolerated but celebrated. When team members take risks in this kind of culture, they are rewarded for these efforts – even when they fail. Professor Wind shared his “great belief” that the “only way to learn and grow and succeed is by continuously experimenting”. Without a culture of experimentation, companies are unable to grow and address new challenges.
Why is Experimentation Important in Innovation?
Experimentation isn’t just important when it comes to innovation – it’s the foundation on which innovation is built. By developing new ideas, testing them, failing, and starting over again, your company can rapidly explore potential new avenues and evaluate which will be most effective. History has shown us that countless inventions have come about through R&D efforts were people were seeking to solve entirely different problems, and your business can benefit in ways you can’t predict from experimentation. Professor Wind noted that a culture of experimentation offers companies a competitive advantage, and isn’t that what a successful digital strategy is all about?
How Can Companies Foster a Culture of Experimentation?
Creating a strong culture of any kind involves buy-in from leadership, consistent reinforcement, and ongoing commitment. There are several actions you can take to help your company foster a culture of experimentation.
- Set the tone. A forward-thinking CEO can set the tone for the entire company by encouraging people to explore new ideas, measure their results, and learn from their failures as much as from their successes.
- Engage your team. Companies innovate best when all employees are empowered to experiment and are made aware of the changing landscape. Companies can draw on the experience and inspiration of their entire team, heightening the likelihood of developing new and exciting solutions.
- Make experimentation easy. Give your team the tools and the time to try new things and test different ideas. If your employees have access to what they need to experiment and the go ahead to do it, they will be empowered to innovate.
- Build a framework. By setting standards for how experiments will be run and how they will be evaluated, and developing ethical guidelines for your employees to follow, you ensure that you’ll recognize success when it happens and be able to capitalize on it.
- Celebrate and reward all efforts. By showcasing all emerging proposals and experiments, not just the successful ones, companies demonstrate to their employees that failure is a part of every innovative endeavor.
What is the Role of AI in Experimentation and Innovation?
Generative AI is based on large language models that analyze and draw from enormous datasets. These algorithms, when fed specific directions or questions, can produce responses and recommendations instantly based on what they’ve learned from those datasets. While the information provided requires validation against other available data and the systems need to be regulated – AI is only as intelligent and accurate as the datasets it pulls from – Professor Wind hailed generative AI as a new and exciting opportunity for innovation and testing. He suggested that companies examine their current experiments and investigate what augmentation is possible through the incorporation of generative AI solutions.
“The number of ideas and the number of experiments you can design exponentially go up,” he said, “because of the help of generative AI and conversational AI. …[Y]ou are able to identify new opportunities for questions, or maybe the new problems, the new questions, or [the] new areas” for explosive growth, all because of generative AI.
How Can AI Support New Marketing Approaches?
Digital marketing is in a time of transition, and companies must shift their focus to be “customer-centered”, Professor Wind shared, with an orientation to stakeholders instead of only to shareholders. He advised that the “company’s responsibility is not only for maximizing shareholder value but also addressing the needs of customers, employees, [and] society in general.” AI can help companies to do both.
Generative and conversational AI offer us, Professor Wind said, the ability to “analyze data [with] that much greater detail and accuracy… [and] to customize [and] personalize the message.” Marketers should pivot from a focus on customer segments to an approach tailored to the person being targeted. Professor Wind shared that the industry has begun to describe this as a “pilot look”, where the generative AI serves as the user’s co-pilot and “enriches the set of tools that every one of us have”, allowing us to be more efficient and create more effective messages. The future of digital marketing is personal, and AI can get your business that much closer to your customers.
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