The AI-Enabled Explosion of Organizational Creativity and Innovation is Here

By Erik Noyes, Babson College |  November 20, 2023

Are you ready for it? Do you see the tsunami wave coming? Or are you missing the plot? 

Those of us engaged on the frontline of AI research and application can barely keep track of the dramatic possibilities in every industry and market. The dimensions and search-spaces for innovation are about to change completely, and only executive teams with a deep conceptual understanding of AI and its capabilities will benefit. 

Yes, it sounds sensational. But in just a few years, AlphaFold by Google DeepMind deciphered the structure of all 200 million known proteins, which in turn created unimagined new horizons to accelerate drug discovery and personalized medicine to improve human health. Prior to that, all of humankind only managed to identify the structure of 170,000 proteins. What humans accomplished served as the training data that enabled AlphaFold’s breakthroughs.

Is an AlphaFold Moment Coming to Your Industry?

New AI capabilities will offer your most creative colleagues new capabilities to drive innovation, enhance decision-making, and boost collaboration. Hopefully, that includes you, as the sharpest minds in your business are imagining new opportunities every day.

AI-enabled Opportunities:

Drive Innovation: By analyzing diverse data types, AI can uncover novel patterns and opportunities, sparking innovative solutions.

Enhance Decision-Making: AI can offer new 360-degree views of data—text, images, video, and audio—powering more informed decisions.

Boost Collaboration: AI can help translate and summarize complex data across departments, breaking silos and fostering collaborative creativity.

AI is the story of Big Data coming to roost — to reshape industries and to launch new waves of global entrepreneurship and innovation. It will shine a spotlight on how absurdly creativity humans can be.  Meaning innovation won’t come from AI alone, but from your best people with their respective human superpowers now augmented by AI. The real question is how will your top innovators leverage AI to probe and explore, to imagine and visualize, to prototype and create?

Part of what makes AI both fascinating and unsettling is that our digital world as we know it is collapsing. Specifically, the historically siloed and disconnected areas of computing—text and language, imagery, video, audio — are now uniting. This invites innovators to fuse these capabilities into new strategic capabilities and new value propositions. What was impossible just years or months before, is now possible. Unstructured data — data which doesn’t sit neatly in columns and rows — is being mined and combined for its power and capability. Your company’s top innovators can now leverage this multimodality to scale their own creativity, to consider more possibilities faster and more powerfully.

What is Multimodality?

Multimodality in AI refers to systems that can understand, interpret, and generate information across various forms of data, such as text, images, sound, and video. This integration allows AI to provide richer, more nuanced insights and outputs, closely mimicking human-like abilities.

The Creative AI Race is On

Multimodality in AI means there are exponential opportunities to relate previously disconnected, complex data inputs and outputs. The combinatorial creativity race is on, accelerated by AI. So now your top innovation leaders have new tools for sensing, perceiving, synthesizing, and generating. What will they create?

An explosion of organizational creativity and innovation is nearing. Innovators both inside (and outside) of your company will be able to distill, represent, test and refine their ideas faster, synthesizing a much wider scope of information than was previously imaginable. Companies will have new superpowers to generate diverse portfolios of innovation ideas rapidly, and to interrogate and relate future market and technology trends. 

So, what should executives do?

  1. Pursue an interdisciplinary, multi-industry understanding of AI. Not just AI in your industry, but the shocking range of AI capabilities enabling new value propositions across healthcare, education, entertainment, and energy, to name a few. 
  2. Reevaluate your current market-scanning and insight-gathering approaches in light of emergent AI superpowers, particularly multimodality. Soon you’ll use conversational AI to “interview” tomes of customer feedback, or to summarize observational video with lead customers. 
  3. Push your top innovation leaders to make predictions about AI’s capabilities to track the accuracy of those predictions. Are you accurately monitoring the pace of change?
  4. Understand the corresponding risks of AI, particularly the potential for bias based on the data AI models are trained on. AI is not an oracle. AI is a tool, and these tools still have limitations and risks. 

In sum, AI is a powerful enabling technology for your top innovation leaders to magnify their own human greatness. AI will help them scale their special talents. AI will help them analyze, speculate, and connect with others in entirely new ways. 

Are you ready for it? Do you see the tsunami coming?

Erik Noyes is an Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at Babson College.

An expert in innovation and growth strategy, Noyes teaches courses in entrepreneurial thinking, new venture creation, and business innovation. His research examines entrepreneurship, innovation, and generative AI. He co-led the creation of The Generator, an interdisciplinary AI lab at Babson College that applies breakthrough advances in AI to entrepreneurship and innovation. He teaches Entrepreneurial Opportunities in AI at Babson, among other graduate and undergraduate entrepreneurship courses.