“How can you not get romantic about baseball?” – Billy Beane
On Feb 20th, I shared the first lesson (The Iron Man Lesson: Be explicit about where you want to be on the Man-Machine continuum) we at Cisco Services have learned in our journey to Cisco Predictive Services. Today, we discuss the next lesson.
Lesson #2: The Money Ball Lesson: Use a first principles approach to sponsoring AI initiatives
From board-rooms to working-teams, AI has become a hot topic. Executives may feel pressured in an arms-race for AI-based solutions. On occasion, it feels like AI is a hammer and everything looks like a nail. In this anxious context, it is easy to lose sight of first principles and to over-rely on real or perceived experts to identify and sponsor AI initiatives.
This is the Seersucker Illusion. An over-reliance on expert advice.
Think of the newly minted PhD in Machine Learning with a learning algorithm to save millions or the consultant touting incredible results at other firms or the startup-founder pitching an AI-first solution. While these ideas might work, it is important to not get carried away by the hype and take a first-principles to identifying and sponsoring AI initiatives. Find solutions that work for your company and your business.
In Money ball, Billy Beane (manager of the Oakland A’s) defies convention and uses a first principles approach to identify the best players for his team. When other managers looked at physical characteristics and “feel”; he used rarely used statistics. He looked where no one else looked.
Billy Beane’s unconventional methods paid off, and despite being one of the poorest funded teams, Oakland A’s made it to the play-offs. In modern baseball, Billy Beane’s first principles approach is routinely used.
In Cisco, a lot of innovation happens at the grass-roots. And, when we make bets on AI, we look everywhere.
In this process we found a team of technical engineers in Switzerland, who had created a clever solution called BORG – it helped technical services engineers find an issue with incoming cases in minutes instead of hours. It was like finding a needle in a hay-stack. We double-downed on BORG. I am proud to say that BORG won the Pioneer Award at Cisco – the highest accolade for innovation in the company. And, had help improve customer experience in thousands of customer cases.
Our journey is not done. But, amidst all the noise, we must be thoughtful about which AI initiatives to sponsor. The Seersucker Illusion is tempting, but Money Ball teaches us to take a first principles approach. My personal belief is that
AI-based innovation is already happening at the grass-roots of large enterprises.
The trick is to find it.