AI explained – using a framework based on five senses

AI must be made accessible to everyone

Artificial intelligence (AI) brings new opportunities to all areas of an organization.

Capitalizing on it requires a full commitment across all business functions. It must be embraced by everyone, not just technologists.

All too often though, AI is viewed as complex or mysterious.

So, how do you begin building artificial intelligence into your business and engaging with the whole workforce to optimize and release its benefits?

In this article, we outline a simple framework that compares the components of artificial intelligence to five senses of human intelligence – an approach that makes AI accessible to everyone in the business, enabling the organization to release the full value of an intelligence-first approach to transformation.

Creating a framework to facilitate understanding

Inside the brain of a human

As humans, we make sense of the world using a combination of different cognitive functions:

  • Attention – the state of observation and alertness that allows awareness of what is happening in the environment (Ballesteros, 2000).
  • Memory – the retention of information over time for the purpose of influencing future actions (Sherwood, 1995).
  • Language – the production of spoken or written signs that symbolize objects, ideas, etc. (Lecours et al. 1979).
  • Praxis – learned motor activity and the generation of volitional movement for the performance of a particular action or towards achieving a goal (NeuronUp).
  • Executive functions – required for planning, organizing, guiding, revising, regulating and evaluating behavior necessary to adapt effectively to the environment and to achieve goals (Bauermeister, 2008).

When these cognitive functions interact, we demonstrate human “intelligence.”

Inside the brain of a business

An artificially intelligent business or organization requires similar functions:

  • The ability to monitor an environment and activities – i.e., attention.
  • The capacity to retain and organize data in the form of knowledge – i.e., memory.
  • The ability to communicate and interact – i.e., language.
  • The execution of actions and operations – i.e., praxis.
  • The capacity to process and analyze knowledge – i.e., executive functions.

We refer to these functions as the “Five Senses of Intelligent Automation.” When they are combined appropriately, they enable organizations to transform themselves.

Applying the framework to deliver transformation

Applying this concept provides a framework to visualize traditional activities in a completely new way that allows you to reimagine them. It allows innovation and creativity to take advantage of AI technologies by establishing a human metaphor for machine activities.

Stage 1

The first step is to identify activities that will have the greatest benefit to your business. The identification of these activities will help you understand the key differentiators in your business and where there are opportunities for significant competitive advantage.

The objective is not just about reducing cost by applying lean principles to redesign business processes. It is to apply design thinking to deliver better, more effective and efficient outcomes.

What is design thinking?
“A human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”
Tim Brown, CEO, IDEO

Design thinking is therefore a method that focuses on the three main elements of a product or solution – people, technology and business – all of which evolve around the customer.


Stage 2

This step is about mapping the people, processes, and technology to the framework. It is also vital to establish why this activity is performed and how improvements will benefit the organization. This creates the basis to allow design thinking.

You should clearly define how you will measure the improved outcomes and their impact on the organization. We’ll revisit this point in a future article.

The five senses framework informs and enables the reimagining of traditional activities.


Stage 3

The final step is about reimagining your activities. You should involve a team of people with a broad mix of seniority and experience. It should include, but not be limited to, knowledge on existing and new technologies, processes, and business needs. This will lead to richer solutions and facilitate unexpected synergies.

Adopt an AI-first approach that explores and investigates new technologies mapped to the five senses. As an example, watch how intelligent automation is radically transforming traditional finance operations like procure-to-pay and credit-to-cash.

During this step, it’s important to test how your new technologies interact with each other, and with people and processes, to deliver better outcomes. Connecting each of the senses creates the intelligence!

Using design thinking and AI-first principles will deliver exciting outcomes.


AI is part of our everyday lives

This example of an in-car navigation system shows how the five senses are already working together in technology that we use every day. Such is the accuracy, convenience and intuitive nature of satnavs today, very few people navigate using maps anymore.

There is no time to waste

The satnav is just one example of how AI is improving our lives. The rapid pace of development in solutions underpinned by artificial intelligence will soon completely eclipse the performance of those that are not.

Intelligent organizations will take full advantage of the opportunities that AI enables by involving all of their workforce in transforming their business.

In our next article, we’ll look in detail at the impact AI is having on people in a business by considering new organization designs and the changing roles of managers and workers.

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