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Charlene Li on Generative AI’s role in disruptive business transformation

I was pleased to catch up with Charlene Li, a well-known and renowned author, keynote speaker, advisor, and coach, to chat about her new book, The Disruption Mindset: Why Some Organizations Transform While Others Fail, and discuss some of the biggest issues facing the technology industry — and the business world — today.

As she writes, “disruptive transformation is so difficult because it upsets the status quo and shifts power relationships. It requires not settling the table that has been set for us and instead committing to run toward a future that is radically different from — and better than — we are today.”

Obviously, AI looms large among the factors with immense capacity to disrupt business operations, and we discuss its positive impacts, as well as some potential threats, including deep fakes and phishing campaigns, along with the need for organizations to have guidelines in place to stay safe and focus on innovation.

We discuss AI’s impact on startups and how AI “co-pilots” have measurably improved productivity among coders. Charlene notes that the startup environment is vibrant and well-funded right now but also risky from a longer-term perspective, given the likelihood that large companies such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook will eventually disrupt and/or co-opt AI startups’ business models.

The conversation shifts towards the transformative potential of AI in marketing, with Charlene emphasizing the power of generative AI to produce content efficiently. She expresses a mix of optimism and skepticism about the impact of LLMs on the research industry, acknowledging both their potential benefits and the potential for laziness in relying on AI for answers, as well as the potential for generative AI systems to “hallucinate” false and potentially dangerously misleading results. We then chat about AI’s role in producing targeted, hyper-personalized advertising and across marketing and branding generally.

Charlene clearly believes that one needs to become familiar with AI’s potential now, rather than waiting for it to mature at some future date. As she notes, the AI ecosystem is thriving “because we can see how generative AI can be used in almost all aspects and start transforming the way we do work; the way we live, the way we play. And so marketers, I think… if you’re not using it every day, you’d better start using it as much as you can to explore how we can really transform the way we work. And don’t use it like a glorified search engine. Really think about the work that would completely change the way you’re doing things today if you have this incredible tool at your disposal.”


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