On the Google Scholar website, which is also driven by artificial intelligence (AI), a quick search for revolution and artificial intelligence will turn up more than 30,000 articles – and that is just for 2020. Though artificial intelligence has made many promises over recent years, its real impact on organizational efficiency and innovation has yet to be seen.

In the past few decades, the integration of technologies into organizations has not run smoothly, whether it is the introduction of microcomputers, the implementation of integrated management systems, or the rapid growth of the Internet and electronic commerce. As a result of the digital revolution, business models and processes are changing, while skills and practices need to continually evolve.

As a result of these observations, a small group of managers from various Montreal organizations, such as AI in Health (EIAS), began meeting in spring 2019 to explore concrete ways to ensure that artificial intelligence is incorporated into organizations in a sustainable way.

In the brainstorming process, the formula of a community was developed, as the managers were interested in actively participating in the solution. Together, they discussed the experiments and management practices that needed to be improved. One member of the community stated at the outset of the project that the adoption of AI by Quebec companies has accelerated in recent years. Companies have changed their operating and organizational models as a result of the deployment of this technology. For our businesses to generate value, it is necessary to effectively manage these changes. 

This approach was primarily designed to facilitate an open conversation between people from organizations that genuinely wanted to participate in the project, enabling people to share and enrich the reflection on the integration of artificial intelligence into industries, according to the community’s initiators.

A number of operating principles were established during the first meetings, including the importance of sharing learning and mobilizing organizations from different sectors in order to enrich perspectives. Additionally, consulting companies and solution developers will not be invited to these meetings. Participants were able to contribute serenely because of these assumed orientations because they shared their experiments and questioned themselves honestly both about their successes and about their doubts.  As a peer leader, participating in this community is an excellent way for me to learn from others. It reassures me and inspires me to pursue the responsible integration of AI for the benefit of society because leaders in the field share my challenges and are experimenting with new ways, methods and approaches.

Trusted and authentic community

The mission and vision of this network were defined by seven organizations at the end of August. Participants felt at ease within a community immediately after a few ideation sessions facilitated by facilitators. 

The goal was to establish a collaborative space where best practices could be shared, doubts could be expressed, failures could be learned from, and topics could be jointly identified interest. In addition to identifying and defining needs better, some members saw this pooling effort as an opportunity to orient research and collaboration with solution providers, particularly by educating them about the challenges involved in implementing and implementing artificial intelligence in organizations, beyond technological advancements.

Starting in the fall of 2020, members of this community decided to include academia and government, so as to ensure different players have a seat at the same table, and to promote informal, open discussions concerning each one’s needs. In this way, a participant in the discussion became clearer about knowledge management, change management, the process of value creation, business translation, etc. A common concern that is identified by the participants during the dialogue still makes it possible for them to contribute effectively to the orientation of future research programs, beyond expressing their needs. The needs of companies in terms of skills development and continuing training are also essential elements of discussions with higher education institutions.

Structured meetings

Each two-month meeting is held in the community. As each member handles the meeting, a real case study is presented by sharing their experiences in front of the group. Following the facilitators’ introductions, the participants participate in exchanges between themselves so they can express themselves and learn from each other. Communication, consultation, and assistance are provided to each other between meetings.

Therefore, the community exists beyond the meeting itself, contributing to the reflections of its members, and offers a growing repository of knowledge, experience, and new ideas. In only a short time, we realized that many of our challenges were similar between organizations. Curiously, the sideline meetings we held with the other community members proven to be more profitable than the official meetings. It was possible to discuss issues that were not covered during meetings in these meetings. Identifying pitfalls to avoid was the next step. Additionally, these moments have greatly contributed to the development of internal strategic discussions surrounding AI valuation.

Participants in this community have created a safe space, which is the key to their success. Our community lives by these principles. To contribute to the generation of new knowledge in the integration of AI in organizations, I hope to co-develop with other members innovative approaches tested in our organizations. As a result of this community, I hope that leader members will be able to apply what they learn to their organizations, thus promoting successful integration and transformation of their organizations.

Change is accelerated by the crisis

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the activities of the community have paradoxically accelerated, allowing for more frequent virtual meetings (at a monthly rate) to exchange practices and experiences.

Members of the community also face challenges as a result of the many requests for participation. They are considering extending the program to other organizations, but some principles are already in place, such as not accepting members who only wish to sell or take. Moreover, the depth and richness of the exchanges encourage the activities to be structured even further, by forming thematic sub-communities that prepare and facilitate specific sessions.

This community has been in operation for almost two years, and its legitimacy and usefulness are well established. An emerging and complex innovation ecosystem is already relying on this community for guidance and thought leadership.  A true sharing of experiences and best practices is the best way for organizations to understand and overcome these challenges.

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