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Curry Club Takeway: Innovation needs to start at the top

15th May 2017

M&C Saatchi PR Curry Club is a round table where we host journalists alongside business and industry thought leaders as we feed them food for thought. This time around Chris Owen, Director of Tech & Innovation, was serving up discussion on AI & innovation…

Last night saw the inaugural M&C Saatchi PR Curry Club – a laid-back meeting of (I’d hope) bright minds to chew the cud on a variety of topics, including AI (this month’s proposed theme), autonomous cars, and crowdfunding. Of course, as with all the best conversations, discussions digressed and tangents were taken – with the evening’s topics also touching on blonde wigs, Eurovision, and Tottenham’s ill-fated Premier League title challenge!

An informal affair, the evening was never intended to be structured debate about the merits, pitfalls, opportunities, and challenges surrounding AI and machine learning. That said, Covent Garden’s Cinnamon Bazaar still played host to plenty of chat (or should that be ‘chaat’) about the tech and how it’s impacting business.

One interesting example which cropped up was around a global business which had recently brought its entire EXCO into training around AI and machine learning, and what the technology’s emergence means for their company, their sectors and – indeed – their own jobs and future growth. It transpired the CEO himself had been on the course, and was so enamoured about its importance that he made sure the senior team dedicate eight days to understanding it through a series of workshops and immersion events.

M&C Saatchi PR Curry Club innovation

It’s a commitment which could well pay off for the company, certainly justifying the expense of the events and the time out of the office for such a senior squad of execs. Having innovation feed down from the top ensures it is given priority, credence and becomes part of the DNA of the company. When the innovation had the potential to fundamentally disrupt the industry within which the company operates, this is even more important that everyone knows it must be something they know inside out.

Start-ups of course embody this route, in that the Founder is often the one with a major hand in the core innovation (be it software, service, or hardware), and thus everything filters down through them and it becomes part of the fabric of the company.

Sadly, such a route isn’t adopted by anywhere near enough enterprises – too often innovation starts in silos or dedicated departments which then report up the chain, at each step becoming more standardised and less innovative, until eventually the whole purpose is mired in process and lost.

With AI and machine learning set to infiltrate industries worldwide and fundamentally change operations within business, taking the time to fully understand it and its implications across the board, with the Board, is critical and a route many operations need to consider. Innovation and disruption need to be embedded throughout and understood by all, rather than siloed and departmentalised.