Generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT, have led to a significant increase in efficiency in Swiss businesses, challenging traditional roles and pushing for a shift in mindset towards embracing AI in all aspects of the business ecosystem.
SwissCognitive Guest Blogger: Isabelle Flückiger, Board Member and expert in new technologies and AI – “Are the Swiss Business Leaders Ready for the AI Future?”
A tsunami of generative AI tools spilt over the world and exceeded our boldest expectations. ChatGPT is the fastest-adapted tool ever. It reached one million users within only five days.
For a long time, AI was a subject for experts. With the advent of ChatGPT, AI became accessible to society in general. Everybody talks about AI, and positions were taken. Some were excited by the possibilities, while others called it artificial stupidity.
Generative AI writes marketing campaigns, answers emails, compiles essays, generates program code, makes PowerPoint presentations, creates images, and provides excellent written web search summaries.
First indications from Swiss firms show that teams now using such AI tools became 10-20% more efficient.
It puts the job future of white-collar workers under pressure. Even programmers and AI students are worried about their professional future.
AI has come to stay.
Compared to many other countries, Switzerland is inertial.
Switzerland’s economy is still in a special status. We have low inflation, decent economic growth, security of supply and the pressure of skills shortage is often discussed but without concrete actions.
And so are the reactions and responses to new technologies and AI.
Decreased margins and the need to reduce costs are still the main drivers for adopting AI.
No surprise, the leading Swiss technology manufacturing companies have built up AI competencies and their integration into processes and their products for years. It is the only option to stay relevant in that fiercely competitive market.
The more this Swiss special status protects a firm’s ecosystem, the less these companies develop. The life sciences and healthcare industry has one of the lowest adoption rates of AI globally, and my observation in the Swiss market is similar. Swiss Financial Services firms are lacking behind the technological developments in the global Financial Services industry. Small and middle-sized entities operating mainly in Switzerland had no reason so far to advance.
But we see the rise of another pressure on corporates: the accessibility of AI for everybody and the fast speed adoption rate of AI usage by employees and future workforce.
The dynamic is changing, independent of the industry. AI adoption has become doable for everybody. Small and middle-sized entities without advanced technologies yet, now see an ample opportunity to start green field and architecting a flexible, time-sensitive and scalable business platform. Their advantage is their more agile nature compared to large corporates. In response to this new business ecosystem, we see an increased collaboration and project funding demand from SMEs with AI startups in the Swiss market. Working with big tech companies is now an option for Swiss SMEs, too.
Switzerland remains the most innovative country according to the Global Innovation Index. The backbone of our innovation culture is our educational institutes and organisations with world-leading academia and research. Science-based innovation and the increase in the number of successful startups are one of the highest levels globally.
Such a recent example is where researchers from Lausanne developed and implanted electrodes into the brain of a person with paraplegia. AI then translates the corresponding brain activities into commands to control the legs resulting that this person can walk again. It shows the power of Switzerland’s innovation and use of AI.
But also, our educational system will be heavily affected by generative AI applications. While schools want to ban these generative AI applications, leading education institutes and professional associations evaluate how they can be integrated into knowledge transfer.
Take the example of highly specialised emergency care nurses who have been in training for several years. While inference reasoning and oral communication are crucial, students should not fail just because of written expression. And we have this situation in many professions.
While all these examples give excellent opportunities for Swiss firms, there are a lot of challenges to bringing all ideas into economically feasible business cases.
First, there is much uncertainty about AI regulations. No regulation does not mean that more is permitted. It increases the uncertainty of adopters and the affected people. AI ethics is fundamentally essential to building trust. Trust in AI is necessary for everyone to adopt it.
Second, Switzerland’s special status is inherent in the development and implementation of AI. It lacks the bite to implement an optimal solution for customers, employees, and investors. They are too often satisfied with an average outcome. While international firms abroad focus on shared business value with and behavioural economics of users, the focus in Switzerland is too much on the technical solution.
Third, there is a significant pent-up demand for AI literacy across all company functions. AI is often only a topic of most Swiss companies’ IT and data science departments. Educating employees in AI literacy has yet to find its way into corporate training. AI needs to be included as a steady topic on every board and executive management meeting agenda.
Are the Swiss business leaders now ready for the AI future?
Still waiting. A shift in mindset and awareness of business leaders is needed. AI is impacting all aspects of the business ecosystem. So far, AI is integrated into existing processes to replace particular labour-intensive manual work. But AI has a much bigger potential: to rethink processes anew in the sense that they will eventually not even exist anymore.
Instead of using AI for a more accurate diagnosis of a disease, how does it look when AI prevents the disorder at all? How will the work of nurses and doctors change?
Instead of having better claims cost estimations and faster reimbursing processes in an insurance company, what happens when AI prevents claims at all?
With no shift in mindset, the chance will be high that your successor as a CEO or board member will be an AI bot.