The role of AI in the future of work: 10 ways to future-proof your startup

Jodie Cook urges small businesses not to be intimidated by AI but rather take action to stay informed now, and in the game in the future.

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Disruptive technology changes the game for businesses sooner or later. Even if early adoption is slow, eventually every business will function differently. Personal computing, email, social media, COVID-19, artificial intelligence. They came, they grew, and they transformed how startups operate.

Business owners are worried about artificial intelligence, but they don’t need to be. With the right foresight, right now, they can pre-empt what’s going to happen and grow with the tech. Rather than their business becoming irrelevant, they pave a new path of relevance for their niche. Rather than be replaced, they replace others. The foundations move and new players emerge but the startups that prepared are absolutely fine.

Future-proof your startup with artificial intelligence

1. Embrace AI early

It’s still early and there’s still time. You’re not too late, but you might be soon. Before your competitors harness the potential of AI, taking all the gains in your industry, begin your own explorations. Even if you don’t make any changes, at least understand what it means. Try and grasp the potential by experimenting with AI tools and solutions that may benefit your business. Start small if required, but definitely start.

2. Invest in AI training and education

Your team members are chatting with ChatGPT and thinking about how to do more work in less time. Or even just how to work less. Rather than fight the tide, banning the tools and demanding that everything they create comes from scratch, invest in their training and equip them to produce. You can buy courses, bring in experts, or share YouTube videos in a team Slack channel. Encouraging them to learn, share and implement will mean an adaptable culture that continues to thrive.

3. Adopt ethical AI practices

You probably have a privacy policy and terms and conditions for your business. Incorporate your AI vision, values and mission within these documents. Start with a solid ethical framework for AI usage in your startup, and get a draft from ChatGPT itself. This document should address data privacy, avoidance of algorithmic biases, and transparency in how customer data is processed. Firmly state how you will use AI so the benchmark is set for your business.

4. Diversify and refine skills

Anyone can punch in a few prompts and get reams of text, but that doesn’t mean it’s any good. Low quality content is not the goal. High quality content, in greater quantities, could make all the difference. Within your team, don’t forget to focus on the skills that AI struggles to replicate, including creativity, emotional intelligence and critical thinking. You didn’t hire your team to be machine operators, and you’re not one either. Emphasise their human qualities so they don’t start to decline.

5. Develop resilient business models

It might make sense to buy the .ai domain name for your business. It definitely makes sense to visualise how your business will operate in the future. This way, you can work backwards, crafting your existing offering to be flexible in the face of rapid technological advancements. What’s your strategy for pivoting, should the future happen faster than you think? What will you do when no one wants to leave their house, and customers expect answers in record time? Plan to stay relevant by building resilience into your business model.

6. Maintain human oversight

While AI can sift through large data, draw conclusions, and generate text and images, you probably wouldn’t let it run your X (formerly Twitter) account without a cursory check. Don’t trust AI systems to run every process from start to finish, yet. Humans add context, ethical considerations, and intuition, so it's important to keep this balance. Use AI as a tool and not as a complete replacement. Automate but don’t abdicate.

7. Collaborate with AI startups

AI startups are popping up all over town and they’re facing the same challenges. The promise of AI is so high, can what they build match up to expectation? Either way, these startups are looking for users just like you. Engage with AI-focused startups through partnerships, investments, or pilot programs. Reach out to founders who appear on your LinkedIn. Becomingan early adopter of their tool could mean you get special treatment, tailored features, and reap the benefits it promises before anyone else.

8. Data management and infrastructure

“Destroy that company,” ordered the hacker to the autonomous AI agent. That agent then carries out actions until that company is taken down. Attacking security systems is an obvious way in for AI programs on a mission to cause harm, so ensure your company’s data management system is strong. Employ an ethical hacker to try to break its walls, and fix every gap they find. Cybersecurity has never been more important and it’s never been more vulnerable. Future-proof your startup by not leaving it too late.

9. Stay up to date with AI regulations

The law can’t keep up with AI advancements, and what’s going to happen is anyone’s guess. While it’s not a reason for concern, it’s a reason to stay up to date. Things might change and affect you in the future. Set up a Google Alert for “AI regulation” or simply bookmark a news site to keep abreast.

10. Scalability with AI

When you’re building with AI, build for scale. Think about how the solution your business now offers can serve millions, not hundreds. When you’re experimenting with tools, find those that have higher limits that mean once you hit on something in demand, you can produce at a far higher rate. Go all in and dream big about the possibilities, once you’ve mastered the basics. 

How to stay relevant in the future of AI

Every time there is a technological change, the timer starts before business operations are completely transformed. Stay informed, stay curious, stay relevant. Get hungry to learn and test, not cynical and ignorant to what’s about to take place. Use these 10 points as a roadmap of how to stay relevant and thrive in the age of AI.

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Jodie Cook - business journalist

Jodie Cook started her first business at 22, straight after completing a business management degree and one-year graduate scheme. As she built her social media agency over a ten year period, she started writing for Forbes on the topic of entrepreneurs. In 2021 Jodie sold the agency for seven figures. Since selling, Jodie has written a book, “Ten Year Career”, created courses for entrepreneurs, and mentored start up business owners on accelerator programs. In 2023 she founded Coachvox AI – a platform for creating AI coaches, where you can train an AI version of you to coach, mentor and answer questions just like you would.

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