Insights AI Education is Not About Data Science

AI Education is Not About Data Science

So frequently when I hear business leaders talk about AI education they are focused on certifications around specific technologies, especially how they can create a team of Data Scientists. While, I agree that having Data Scientists is a need for many organizational groups, especially product development or those using Data-as-a-Product, I believe that this takes a too myopic and “small” view of the world of change that is coming as a result of AI. The true transformation that is happening is not a ROLE, but a SKILL across every business function. The next three years will not be the years of the Data Scientist, they’ll be the years of the Data Practitioner…. the ability to identify, apply, and leverage commodity and custom AI to accelerate every task, not just a select few. The power is not the skill or even the advent of AI, but even more the opportunity afforded by the availability of human capability… focused on the right objectives because AI has enabled commodity activities to be automated.

As you plan for the new year, think about the following:

  1. How can I strategically plan and understand how AI impacts EVERY role in my company? How can I enable everyone to be more as a result?
  2. Where do skills of AI practitioner, AI engineer, and data scientist fit into the various functional areas of my business? How can I maximize each of them to achieve the results I’m seeking?
  3. How do I leverage both Commodity and Custom AI capabilities in conjunction with each other? In a sense… have each meet where they are at to achieve a powerful outcome.
  4. How does AI impact the way I execute on the mission of my business? How do I reflect that mission in a new way that takes advantage of these capabilities? In a sense… how do I explore what my business would look like from the ground up through the lens of AI?

What kinds of skills are necessary to succeed as an AI practitioner?

  1. Deep business knowledge of a functional area… consider any functional domain and its impact on the organization. We often say, “you are the experts on your own business… we just bring tech to the table”.
  2. Ability to disconnect from “how things have been done in the past” and a desire to force multiply. An interest in being part of the solution and thinking about themselves as a manager of outcome vs. an executor only.
  3. Creativity to think about possibilities and manners of solving a problem. In many roles the creativity of the person has been lost and needs to be regained in the business setting. We need to empower the freedom to make this happen.
  4. Exposure to commodity AI capabilities, such as Copilot, ChatGPT, “spell check”, or anything that force multiplies the human person’s ability to create.
  5. Communication skills and the ability to reflect them in prompts. The difference is you are telling a system to create in a similar way you’d tell an assistant. Now everyone has an assistant.
  6. Build skills and an ability to apply them to middle of the road AI use cases that a business person can create themselves using tools like Copilot Studio. Not long ago Power BI or even Excel was considered a power tool… now it reflects the language of business.
  7. Ability to know when true tech expertise is required to execute on a mission-specific use case requiring precision and accuracy. This is when Data Scientists, AI engineers, or developers will engage to help drive an application platform home… but only in partnership with an AI-aware person in the business.

OK… notice anything interesting about the list above? Many of the skills are literacy, creativity, critical thinking, engagement, business understanding, and… yes… technology. To think of AI education as solely about getting a tech certification sets the bar WAY too low. To think about the AI transformation about unlocking creativity and enabling truly HUMAN skills, is where we can arrive.

To learn more about what every business person should be preparing for in AI, check out the following video!