Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Costas Michalia of Fiora Discusses the Impact of AI on Business and Entrepreneurship

Leaders Perception Magazine is currently running an interview series called – Navigating AI’s Impact On Business

Costas Michalia, the founder of Fiora, has always been interested in problem-solving and exploring the potential of digital channels. With years of experience in the industry, he has recently been working with clients on a more strategic level, exploring digital thinking and functional integration. In this interview, he shares his thoughts on the significant changes that AI will bring to the business landscape over the next 5-10 years and how entrepreneurs can prepare for these changes. He also discusses how AI will change the way businesses operate, particularly in terms of customer service and experience, and what strategies entrepreneurs can use to leverage this technology effectively. Additionally, he addresses the growing concern that AI may replace jobs currently performed by humans and how businesses and entrepreneurs can ensure they are creating jobs that are complementary to, rather than competitive with, AI. Finally, he provides examples of businesses that are currently using AI in innovative and impactful ways and how entrepreneurs can learn from these examples to drive growth and success in their own businesses.

Interviewee Name: Costas Michalia

Company: Fiora

The Interview

Can you tell us about your background and how you got started in your industry?

Costas Michalia : I have always been interested in problem solving. I spend a enormous amount of time researching thinking models and decision making processes. A bit of a geek and a nerd, I fell in love with Commodore Amiga and generating, what was to become known as ‘generative art’ in my teens.

After graduated from Bournemouth University, I spent several years working in a variety of agencies large and small. In late the 90’s and early 2000’s I began to explore the potential of the web and digital as a channel. This led me to set up a creative digital agency called Crab Creative in 2003.

It was a really interesting time, we made lots of mistakes, had lost of successes, won a number of awards. The team were fantastic, and the agency grew quickly. In 2018 Crab and an agency in Bristol called Creation merged to form Fiora. In the last few years I have been working with clients on a much more strategic role, exploring digital thinking and functional integration.

Can you share a recent success or accomplishment that you’re proud of, either personally or for your company?

Costas Michalia : I have been rather blessed recently, I can provide a personal, work and hobby based accomplishment that I am truly proud of. Starting with my hobby, I run a small bespoke furniture company with a friend. We have recently won an award for our origami coffee table, which is an experiment on design reduction.

Personally I am most proud of the team we have built – I have coached my son and the team Edmonton Rangers Sharks since they were U12s, they are now U18s and the team has become a family. We have won several titles over the years and our last season in football (before the players move to mens football) sees the team in the top division, challenging for all 3 cups.

At work I am constantly looking to add value and meaning to our work. In the last 3 years we have developed a strategic business model that has provided our clients with tools to build and capture value. Perhaps the biggest success in this area has been working with a global FMCG to help define and build their strategic model.

In your opinion, what are the most significant changes that AI will bring to the business landscape over the next 5-10 years, and how can entrepreneurs prepare for these changes?

Costas Michalia : The obvious response is that AI can analyse data far more efficiently and pick out patterns and insights that might take weeks or even years for a human to define and understand.

I think we have to be careful about our use of the term AI, the term has become a short hand expression which encompasses a variety of techniques and approaches in creating intelligent systems. The true meaning is to create an intelligence that can think and function like a human (validated by the Turin Test or if your a sci-fi nerd the Voight-Kampff test – Blade Runner)

So if we park that meaning for the moment and explore the broader term which encompasses Machine Learning & Deep Learning. The next 5 – 10 years are going to be fascinating and we will see revolutions and disruptions across a number of industries.

Last mile deliveries will be completed by AI driven drones and electric vehicles, the knock on effect will mean corner stores will become less and less convenient as anything and everything within 10 yrs will be a click away. This will also allow for driverless cars – impacting the taxi drivers. As electric motors become more efficient and 3D printing becomes automated and managed by AI we will start to see drones large enough to carry 2-3 individuals, organisation such as the Civil Aviation Authority will start to explore AI as a means to manage low flying traffic.

We can also expect to see Generative AI impacting and transforming entire industries – from text generation and semi-intelligent conversational bots (replacing call centres and help desks). Text to image AI has exploded with over 2 million users in the first year. New story telling formats and art will become more and more common, with social media platforms adapting to enroll the new formats into their ecosystems. Translation services will no longer be needed, the pharma industry is exploring an AI system called Progen which is a multimodal model trained on 280+ million protein samples to help generate new proteins based on specific and specified properties, this will impact food, medicine and 100s of other industries.

Entrepreneurs need to be open minded and must engage in as broad an interest field as possible. individuals that are able to draw from a broad spectrum of knowledge and see cross overs and intersections will be successful.

Perhaps it is time to own the figure of speech and educate those who have been misquoting it for years – Jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.

How do you see AI changing the way businesses operate, particularly in terms of customer service and experience, and what strategies can entrepreneurs use to leverage this technology effectively?

Costas Michalia : We really need a symbiotic relationship for the moment. Businesses need to adopt and adapt to AI, providing governance and processes to help their teams navigate the next few years. There are 5 key pillars to consider with AI and human interaction:

1. Automation – where AI has all the context and is able to decide. This can be helpful with returns and system based processes that are clear and easily defined

2. Decision Making – essentially AI has all the context but the execution requires a human to sign off. Humans are needed to make a value judgment or need authority to sign off on a unique situation

3. Recommendation – similar to point 1 but AI is lacking context, therefore a human is presented with several options and selects which recommendation to move forward with. This will become a sub-routine in the the Automation step and act as a sanity check when context is missing or lacking in scale or detail

4. Insights – perhaps the most interesting element AI can become an aid in helping businesses make decisions based on a number of data points e.g. complaints, usage, visits, interactions, known issues etc. Humans can examine the patterns AI systems highlight and begin to predict behaviour. This will help businesses to develop better services, helping to remove friction for consumers and adding fuel, value also.

5. Evaluation – (an area I personally find the most interesting). This is all about discovery and exploration. There is not enough data or context so there is a need to explore via simulations (digital twins), running hypotheses inside a safe environment that emulates the real business allows teams to explore what-if scenarios and generate potential data form the simulation that can be applied to real world situation.

The biggest advantage is point 5 – creating digital twins allows organisations to run hypotheses at scale and speed, creating outcomes and imagined scenarios that other businesses have not seen or explored.

There is growing concern that AI may replace jobs that are currently performed by humans. What are your thoughts on this, and how can businesses and entrepreneurs ensure that they are creating jobs that are complementary to, rather than competitive with, AI?

Costas Michalia : As with all technology we will see large sections of the population lose their jobs but new roles and opportunities will be created. In my opinion there will be a net gain overall. The key as we have seen across many other transformative technologies is up-skilling individuals.

What are some examples of businesses that are currently using AI in innovative and impactful ways, and how can entrepreneurs learn from these examples to drive growth and success in their own businesses?

Costas Michalia : At Fiora we have been exploring incorporating AI into our workflow. From basic functions like proof reading to helping build insight models. We have found that the tools are very good at picking out patterns and exceptionally good at organising data into information and picking out insights, where it falls short is wisdom.

In many ways digital creative agencies have been using AI based tools for some time, predictive and behaviour based tools such as Adobe’s Experience Manager or Final Cut Pro’s tracking tool.

I am particularly drawn to the generative art practitioners like Matt Pyke and Joshua Davis. I think they are creating some beautiful and imaginative art.

Leaders Perception magaizne would like to thank Costas Michalia and Fiora for the time dedicated to completing this interview and sharing their valuable insights with our readers!

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