Create space for reflection

Chronicle · Helena Blackbright, innovation researcher at MDH and Automation Region · 2021-06-30

Last week, ISPIM, the world's largest global network for innovation management, held its annual conference. Within the network, Automation Region runs the interest group AI & Innovation Management, where we gather practitioners, researchers and representatives from the public sector to explore the connection between AI and innovation management.

In previous years, the discussions have largely focused on business opportunities here and now, the technical potential, the organizations' AI maturity and conditions for implementation. The discussions have been characterized by curiosity but also by a clear pressure to quickly hop on the train so as not to fall behind. At this year's conference, I felt that we looked up somewhat and allowed ourselves a more long-term discussion focusing on the ecosystems of organizations and relationships that are affected by the increasingly rapid AI development.

There is often an almost reflexive effort to keep up with change and renewal, in both industry and various societal functions. But is there enough room and interest for reflection?

In the short term, it is easy to see how AI and other new technology can be used to improve work steps and processes. With the help of data analysis and algorithms, we can, for example, streamline logistics systems and change traffic flows to reduce or even out load. Very positive and clear effects in the short term, but seen in a larger perspective and in the longer term, there is a risk that they drive demand. It creates unwanted effects which, in the worst case, completely offset the positive effects.

We should therefore look at a more holistic discussion of the effects of AI development. But in everyday life it is difficult to see the benefit. Everyone is under pressure - it is important to be on the train early, to deliver results here and now. There is a race going on between companies, industries and nations where there is not always room to think outside one's own business box.

Developments in digitization and AI are accelerating and creating enormous opportunities, while the need for nuance and problematization is becoming increasingly clear. We must give ourselves space to not only think differently but also in perspectives that extend beyond our everyday activities - this is the only place where we will see the big changes and what will affect our future profitability.

As a neutral player with roots in industry, academia and the public sector, the Automation Region can play an important role in this type of discussion. Our ambition is to create the places where we can develop knowledge about what is most important today – and tomorrow. The interest group within ISPIM and our own research and innovation group are examples of suitable arenas where we can meet, look up, share experience and discuss. Together we shape our future.

If you also want to participate in the continued discussion about AI and innovation management, or maybe just know more, you are warmly welcome to contact us.

Helena Blackbright
Innovation researcher at MDH and Automation Region