Practical innovation: How operations leaders see AI adoption

Whitney Vige headshotWhitney Vige
September 15th, 2023
2 min read
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As technology evolves and AI creates new ways to innovate and streamline work, operations professionals find themselves at a crossroads. AI isn’t just a concept—it’s changing how organizations work, right here, right now. But there are two sides to the coin. While AI presents unprecedented opportunities, it also comes with challenges. 

To better understand the current landscape and mindset surrounding AI, The Work Innovation Lab, a think tank by Asana, conducted a study of over 4,500 individual contributors, middle and senior managers, and executives in the U.S. and U.K  The narrative that emerged was clear: operations leaders are approaching AI with a mixture of optimism and practicality. While they recognize that AI holds immense promise, they also acknowledge the complexities that come with integrating and adopting the technology. 

What is The Work Innovation Lab?

The Work Innovation Lab is a think tank by Asana that develops human-centered, cutting-edge research to help businesses evolve today to meet the growing changes and challenges of work.

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To be successful, operations leaders must balance AI’s revolutionary potential with possible concerns—and ensure their organizations don’t just adopt AI, but do so responsibly, effectively, and with an eye toward long-term growth. Continue reading to uncover the insights The Work Innovation Lab gleaned from operations professionals regarding the expanding role of AI in operations. Plus, discover practical strategies you can adopt to realize the full potential of AI in your organization.

An operator's playbook for powering your organization with AI

Leverage AI to amplify human potential and drive organizational success. Download our AI playbook, designed specifically for operations professionals, for actionable insights on how to use AI in operations—including how to build a unified AI strategy.

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Operations leaders are AI realists

When it comes to AI adoption, operations leaders have positioned themselves as practical innovators. Research from The Work Innovation Lab revealed that while 50% of operations professionals foresee AI playing a role in goal-setting and 55% believe AI can help achieve objectives more effectively than traditional methods, 63% doubt AI's ability to boost productivity—and fear it might even reduce it. What’s more, only 31% of operations professionals anticipate their companies investing in AI in the coming quarter. 

This duality suggests that operations teams are going to have to perform a challenging balancing act. At its core, successful AI adoption hinges on open conversation, custom-tailored training, and a culture of continuous learning. By acknowledging workers’ concerns and championing AI’s advantages, operations leaders can make sure their teams not only adopt AI but actively embrace it. 

How to steer success: 6 actionable strategies for driving AI adoption 

Many operations leaders are grappling with how to effectively incorporate AI into their work and drive real results. Here are six key takeaways from the study: 

  • Advocate for AI-specific operations training. Only 16% of operations professionals feel they’ve received AI training that’s relevant to their job, showing a clear need for organizations to invest in training that’s tailored to their needs. Operations leaders should champion specialized AI training that addresses unique challenges and opportunities for their teams. 

  • Focus on human-centric AI applications. Highlight the collaborative role of humans and AI by focusing on AI initiatives that complement human capabilities—like those that use AI to help with decision-making, automate repetitive tasks, and provide actionable insights to free up time for high-value, uniquely human work.

  • Establish clear AI guidelines and emphasize transparency. Build trust among employees—and ensure AI is used responsibly—by advocating for clear policies and procedures that govern the use of AI in your organization’s operational processes. 

  • Address AI concerns head-on to foster optimism. The Work Innovation Lab’s study found that executives are leading the charge in AI adoption and optimism, but the broader workforce is trailing behind. Establish channels for employees to provide feedback on AI initiatives and champion the technology as a positive change to bridge this gap. 

  • Take tangible steps to reinforce your commitment to AI. Demonstrate your dedication by actively investing in AI initiatives, such as spearheading AI pilot projects, setting aside dedicated AI funds, and providing AI training and support to employees. 

  • Celebrate AI wins and foster a culture of learning. Highlight AI’s force for positive change by encouraging employees to experiment with AI technology, creating methods for sharing feedback and inspiration, and spotlighting employee stories of success and innovation.

Dig deeper 

Eager for more insights? Download the full playbook for more actionable strategies you can put into practice in your organization. Learn how to navigate the gaps in AI perception between leaders and individual contributors, gain guidance to strategically select AI vendors, and learn the meaning of “human-centric” AI.

An operator's playbook for powering your organization with AI

Leverage AI to amplify human potential and drive organizational success. Download our AI playbook, designed specifically for operations professionals, for actionable insights on how to use AI in operations—including how to build a unified AI strategy.

CTA banner image for a playbook about the state of AI in operations. Features humans and machines collaborating in a business setting.

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