What is Augmented AI and why you should care

Understanding human-centric AI solutions to drive business growth and innovation

Hi there,

Today marks a special edition of this newsletter. In the lead-up to my upcoming book "Augmented Analytics", I'm temporarily rebranding to "The Augmented Advantage".

We've been talking about AI from an automation angle for too long, and I think it's the wrong direction. Big GenAI vendors are even taking down expectations (see here why I think this is good). Every single company I know that approached AI mainly from an automation angle has failed.

Instead, what works and drives real results is augmentation - the powerful combination of human and artificial intelligence. If you've never heard of it before, don't worry. In this edition, we'll dive into what augmentation is and why it's the key to unlocking the true potential of AI for your business.

Let’s go!

Preorder Now!

Augmented Analytics is now available as an early release and for pre-order at all major bookstores.

What is Augmented AI?

To kick things off let’s briefly recap the definition of augmentation. Oxford dictionary defines augmentation as “the action or process of making or becoming greater in size or amount.”

So AI augmentation is about enhancing human capabilities with AI, not replacing them. It's the difference between AI that takes over and leaves humans in the dust, and AI that works alongside humans to make their work more meaningful, engaging, and productive.

What does that mean from a business perspective?

Here's how I define Augmented AI, loosely based on the definition we use for augmented analytics in the same-named book:

Augmented AI means adding value by providing people access to AI technology that gives them leverage to accomplish the business task at hand in a better way.

Let’s unpack its five key components:

1. People

Augmented AI is inherently about people. It makes people more successful by building upon the inherent strength that sets them apart from any machine in the world: their unique experiences, creativity, and intelligence. A process where there's no human involved can never truly be an Augmented AI process.

2. AI Technology

While people are the driving force behind the augmentation, technology - and in this case particularly AI - is what makes it possible. This involves Generative AI, but is not limited to it. It spans all 5 AI archetypes.

3. Leverage

Augmented AI essentially acts as a force multiplier. Much like the wheel allows humans to carry heavier loads, or fire allows humans to cook food better, AI is the lever that increases the cognitive capabilities humans already have. It's important to note that this generally doesn't automatically adding entirely new capabilities to people.

Let’s make this example clear: A person who has never written a single line of code before will not turn into a software engineer over night when paired with an AI. However, that person can use AI to augment their ability to learn coding and be probably 10x faster, often even better.

4. Business task

I'm looking at Augmented AI from a business perspective. Sure, you can use it in your personal or academic life, but the way I see it, it's most powerful when applied to (recurring) value-driven business workflows where you're trying to answer a business question or solve a business problem.

This focus is important because real-world business workflows are typically messy, contradictory, and often hard to understand.

Augmented AI treats this as the rule, not the exception.

5. Better way

In order to create value, the leverage that Augmented AI provides, must be directly related to a better way for people to complete their business task.

If there’s no "better", there’s no point in using Augmented AI.

"Better" can come in many ways. This typically boil down to completing work faster, with higher quality or with more satisfaction.

So the core idea is that augmentation is not about replacing humans, but rather empowering them to do better and more enjoyable work.

Finding the AI Augmentation Sweet Spot

Technological overkill is real. If you expose people to too much augmented AI technology, they might easily produce worse results than before. I’ve written about finding this AI sweet spot before.

Augmented AI isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution; you need to focuses on specific tasks, problems, or opportunities where it can provide value, so you can truly enhance people-based workflows rather replacing or overwhelming them.

It’s like choosing the right vehicle for a trip: some trips need a plane, while others might be fine for a bicycle.

Benefits of Augmented AI

While discussing the benefits of Augmented AI could really be a separate newsletter (and maybe I will write that later), there are 5 key benefits that I think stand out:

It actually works

Unlike most automated AI, Augmented AI is actually a concept that has been proven to work in the wild. There’s both a lot of anecdotal evidence (I can confirm!), as well as research-backed findings on the effect of Augmented AI on the workforce.

One of the most prominent is Navigating the Jagged Technological Frontier performed by Harvard Business School et al. The study found out that workers who were using the AI finished 12.2% more work were 25.1% faster produced 40% better quality work.

Bottom line: By assisting with routine tasks, providing data-driven insights, and helping professionals succeed at their jobs, augmented AI - when applied correctly - delivers tangible results such as increased productivity, higher quality work, or better employee or customer experiences.

Easier to Try And Get Started

The technology behind Augmented AI is becoming more accessible and user-friendly. Many platforms now offer low-code or no-code options, allowing even those without a tech background to create and implement AI solutions. This lowers the barrier to entry, enabling businesses to quickly experiment with AI and see its benefits. Heck, the easiest way to do Augmented AI is open up ChatGPT and give it a spin. As I explained before, even low integration and low automation use cases can produce a ton of value.

Scalability and Flexibility

Augmented AI systems can scale with your business's growth, making them suitable for both small startups and large enterprises. These systems can be adapted to changing business needs, giving you the flexibility to respond quickly to market changes.

Enhanced Employee Satisfaction

This is one of the most underestimated things. It's not just about getting people to do better work. It's also about keeping people and giving them work they enjoy. Augmented AI can help people do more enjoyable, more creative work, which leads to higher job satisfaction and - as researchers have found - fewer people leaving their jobs. That's especially important in aging economies with huge demographic shifts.

Improved Customer Experience

And last but not least - it's all about the customer. Augmented AI will help you create a better customer experience, whether it is by delivering new innovative products that would have been impossible before, or simply offering your current products or services at better conditions.

Customer demands are the driving force behind today's business transformation, and Augmented AI helps you keep up.

Conclusion

To wrap up, Augmented AI is both the easiest and the most effective way to get started with AI and future-proof your business in an ultra-competitive landscape.

As you navigate the current business transformation, you'll encounter more and more use cases where you'll find that without AI, you simply won't have a chance to get them off the ground.

But thanks to your newfound knowledge of Augmented AI, your chances of mastering this transformation just got a whole lot better. You're now part of a select group of leaders who understand the true potential of AI and how to harness it for real results.

I'll be diving deeper into other aspects of Augmented AI over the next few weeks, and I want you to be a part of the conversation.

Reply to this email and let me know: What's one area of your business where you think Augmented AI could make a big impact? 

I read every response and can't wait to hear your ideas!

Stay tuned, keep exploring, and remember:

No AI? – No chance!

Until next Friday!

Tobias

P.S. If you found this newsletter valuable, pay it forward! Share it with a colleague or friend who could benefit from learning about Augmented AI. Or leave a testimonial here! Thanks a lot!How