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AI looks North: Bridging Canada’s corporate artificial intelligence gap

For Canadian industries to capture the enormous benefits that artificial intelligence offers, Canadian executives must make dramatic shifts in their mindsets, strategies, and execution plans.

SwissCognitiveFrom high tech to retail, from mining to transportation, artificial intelligenceArtificial Intelligence knows many different definitions, but in general it can be defined as a machine completing complex tasks intelligently, meaning that it mirrors human intelligence and evolves with time. () is fast becoming one of the most promising forms of digital disruption. Early adopters are seeing real benefits that range from reducing operational costs by streamlining processes to building lucrative new -based businesses. And fast-followers are developing strategies to leverage opportunities while guarding against -driven competition from non-traditional sources.

Industry leaders are beginning to envision a future shaped by . The insurance sector is starting to think about how -guided autonomous vehicles will impact auto insurance as the number of accidents and private ownership declines. Forward-thinking retail companies are beginning to envision a time when ’s predictive capabilities—fed by a torrent of consumer data—will become so accurate that products can be shipped before customers order them. Tomorrow’s leaders in the financial industry are preparing for an environment in which few products will be standardized, and offerings will be calibrated to individual needs, guided by -informed customer profiles.

These changes are coming, and all companies should be preparing themselves.

In Canada, which pioneered many foundational advances in research and possesses a rich talent base, the question confronting businesses is whether they can reap benefits commensurate with the nation’s historic academic leadership. Right now, big players such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are coming to Canada to leverage its deep talent pool. But will Canada’s pioneering history translate into accelerated technology advances in its own businesses?

To find out, McKinsey & Company surveyed 120 leading Canadian executives and interviewed 31 business leaders in depth. We found an encouraging amount of enthusiasm for —and a willingness to take even bolder actions to search for value. We uncovered valuable lessons from Canadian leaders that can be applied to other businesses that are struggling or have yet to embrace . However, we also found notable gaps in business leaders understanding of ’s potential, and its impact on the value chain, which has manifested itself in a paucity of truly impactful initiatives. If Canada cannot mobilize aggressively to tap its wealth and talent, others will—and Canadian businesses will risk finding themselves at an enduring competitive disadvantage.

The report distills our findings and anecdotes into a series of targeted recommendations tailored to Canadian business leaders.

In Canada, which pioneered many foundational advances in research and possesses a rich talent base, the question confronting businesses is whether they can reap benefits commensurate with the nation’s historic academic leadership. Right now, big players such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are coming to Canada to leverage its deep talent pool. But will Canada’s pioneering history translate into accelerated technology advances in its own businesses?

Our research uncovered three key gaps between Canada’s aspirations and activities:

  • Strategy does not match expected impact. Although 89 percent of Canadian business leaders believe will create major, positive change within three to five years, only 34 percent have transformed their longer-term corporate strategies to position themselves appropriately to seize ’s potential benefits.
  • The basics of are not widely understood. Although 82 percent of survey respondents reported they currently use or invest in sophisticated applications—, reinforcement , neural networks—interviews revealed current use cases focus nearly entirely on traditional analytics—dashboards and statistics-based analysis.
  • Current applications are not transformative. Most businesses that are currently exploring ’s benefits often focus on a small number of non-core use cases. However, transformative, value-chain targeting experiments are often underutilized.

While these responses align with early stage maturity, Canadian business leaders need to accelerate their efforts to fully participate in this next digital revolution. […]

  1. Dalith Steiger

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