The AI Dilemma for Established Businesses: An Accessory to an Existing Wardrobe or a Complete Fashion Revolution?

Recently, I’ve come to recognize that integrating AI into a business mirrors the nuances of the fashion industry. For many mature businesses, the decision to implement AI into their operations is akin to choosing between adorning their existing ensemble with a glitzy accessory or embracing a bold, new fashion statement. Do they simply add a touch of AI – akin to a dazzling necklace – to their tried-and-true operations, or do they completely revamp their wardrobe with an AI-infused collection? 

This conundrum echoes in the boardrooms of many industries. The question at hand: should they graft AI onto their existing, already scaled product lines or redefine the status quo with disruptive new AI products, built from scratch?

AI as an Accessory: Enhancing Existing Operations with a Touch of AI.

Adding a hint of AI to their current processes is much like adding a statement necklace to an outfit for many established companies – a less disruptive way to refine performance, streamline operations, and augment productivity.

Consider a shopkeeper who has been successfully selling scarves for years. The scarves are beautiful, but they’re just scarves. What if he could utilize AI to recommend the perfect scarf to each customer based on their preferences and past purchases? The scarves would essentially sell themselves!

However, it’s crucial to remember that such enhancements might only offer incremental improvement. Companies must evaluate whether these adjustments will revolutionize their business or merely add temporary glitz.

For many established firms, integrating AI into their existing processes is a less disruptive path. This approach allows them to enhance performance, optimize operations, and elevate productivity.

When incorporating AI into existing products or processes, the design challenge lies in making the AI enhancements intuitive and seamless.

The Pros and Cons of Accessorizing with AI

Benefits of AI Accessorization:

  • Familiarity: Enhancing existing products with AI allows users to interact with a familiar interface, reducing the learning curve.
  • Incremental Improvement: AI-facilitated enhancements in the user interface can improve user satisfaction without overwhelming them with drastic changes.
  • Gradual Innovation: This method facilitates the continuous enhancement of existing products or services, thereby mitigating the risks associated with radical change.
  • Reduced Initial Investment: Compared to creating new products, integrating AI might require less initial expenditure.
  • Customer Retention: Augmenting current offerings with AI can enhance customer satisfaction by providing superior experiences without necessitating adaptation to entirely new products or services.

Challenges of the AI Bolt On:

  • Limited Impact: The accessory approach may yield only incremental improvements, potentially bypassing the transformative potential of AI.
  • Legacy System Compatibility: Incorporating AI into older, complex systems can pose technical challenges, leading to compatibility issues.
  • Risk of Complacency: Dependence on minor improvements may breed complacency, thereby overshadowing the necessity for more profound, transformative change.
  • Design Limitations: The need to conform to an existing interface might limit the extent to which AI can be utilized.
  • Integration Challenges: Incorporating AI functionalities into an existing user interface can be technically challenging, and may create potential user experience issues if not executed correctly.

Examples of companies bolting AI onto existing product lines:

  • Microsoft is integrating generative AI into their tools in various ways. Microsoft has unveiled AI tools for businesses, including 365 CoPilot, which uses generative AI to help users write emails and documents. Microsoft is adding new AI features to its popular apps like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel with Microsoft 365 Copilot, which will let people create PowerPoint decks with a short prompt or summarize meeting recordings
  • Google has announced its plans to embed generative AI features within its Workspace productivity apps, including Gmail and Google Docs. Google also debuted Generative AI App Builder, a tool to help businesses and governments
  • Both Google and Microsoft are working on integrating generative AI into their search engines, with Microsoft debuting its AI-integrated Bing and Google working on Bard, its AI-powered search engine and chatbot
  • Adobe is using AI in various ways across its product lines. Adobe Sensei, the company’s AI engine, is integrated into Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe Express, providing users with innovative new AI capabilities that maximize creativity and precision. These AI-powered features automate complex and repetitive tasks, allowing users to spend more time creating and less time on basic tasks. Adobe Experience Cloud also uses AI features to power digital experiences, including product recommendations, live search results, intelligent budget forecasting and allocation, cross-channel budget optimization, and intelligent content creation and delivery. Adobe Firefly is a separate family of creative generative AI models coming to Adobe products, with an initial focus on image and text. Adobe Sensei is also used in Adobe Experience Manager to provide content intelligence using AI and machine learning, which automates discovery and creation processes to save time and provide valuable insights into customers’.
  • Spotify integrated AI into their existing platform to create Discover Weekly, a personalized playlist for users. The UI remained familiar, but the AI-enhanced feature added significant value for users.

Building New AI-Driven Products: The Chic Collection

As an alternative, established companies can take a bolder step and create entirely new products infused with AI. Venturing into uncharted territories, they could potentially unlock new markets and revenue streams.

Picture a couturier who, instead of merely sewing sequins onto a dress, completely reimagines the garment using AI. Suddenly, the dress can adapt to its wearer’s body, the weather, and even the event. The innovation is nothing short of revolutionary.

Yet, the stakes are higher – the fashion world is fickle, and so is the world of AI. Companies must be prepared to face risks, increased resource allocation, and the possibility of alienating their existing clientele.

Advantages of Building Anew

  • Breakthrough Innovation: Building new AI-driven products can result in disruptive innovations that offer significant competitive advantages. 
  • New UI paradigms: A new product allows designers to experiment with novel UI paradigms that can potentially revolutionize user interactions.
  • Optimal AI Utilization: With no constraints from a pre-existing UI, AI can be used to its fullest potential.
  • Exploring New Market Opportunities: This approach can enable incumbents to engage new customer segments or even create entirely new markets.
  • Future-Readiness: Companies that wholeheartedly embrace AI are likely better equipped to navigate future shifts in technology and consumer expectations.


  • Elevated Risk: The creation of new products carries inherent risks, with no guarantee of market acceptance or success.
  • Increased Resource Allocation: Developing new AI-based products often demands significant resources, spanning talent acquisition, research, development, and marketing.
  • Customer Adaptation: New products may alienate existing customers who are unprepared or unwilling to adjust to the change.
  • User Adaptation: New interfaces might be initially challenging for users, affecting the adoption rate.
  • Higher Design Complexity: Creating an intuitive interface for complex AI functionalities can be challenging.

Examples of new products using generative AI:

  • Jasper – a generative AI platform for business that helps teams create content tailored for their brand 10X faster, wherever they work online. Jasper AI offers a web interface, a browser extension, and an API to access its generative AI capabilities. Jasper AI also provides over 50 templates, tone of voice customization, multiple AI models, memory features, product training, and support for over 30 languages.
  • Copy.AI- is a generative AI copywriter that helps users write engaging and effective copy for various purposes and platforms. Copy.AI offers a web interface and a browser extension to access its generative AI capabilities. It also provides over 40 templates, tone of voice customization, multiple AI models, memory features, product training, and support for over 20 languages. Both Jasper AI and Copy So are examples of brand new generative AI products that are built from scratch using generative AI techniques. They are not bolting AI onto an existing product or service. They are creating new value propositions and experiences for their customers using generative AI.
  • Nova – A platform that provides guardrails for generative AI content to protect brand integrity. Nova helps brands incorporate generative AI into their creative workflows to generate new content associated with the company, while ensuring that the new material adheres to the company’s style and brand guidelines.
  • Anthropic – Claude is a next-generation AI assistant based on Anthropic’s research into training helpful, honest, and harmless AI systems. Claude is capable of a wide variety of conversational and text processing tasks while maintaining a high degree of reliability and predictability. It can help with use cases including summarization, search, creative and collaborative writing, Q&A, coding, and more. Claude can also take direction on personality, tone, and behavior. Anthropic has trained Claude using a technique it calls “Constitutional AI” which aims to align the model’s objectives with human values.
  • Google’s development of Waymo, an entirely AI-based, self-driving technology, exemplifies this approach. Waymo represents a radical departure from Google’s traditional services, showcasing the potential of AI to create entirely new business avenues.

The Intersection of AI and Haute Couture: UI and Design Principles

Whether businesses choose to accessorize their existing operations or create an entirely new AI-based line, the crux of the matter lies in the marriage of UI and design principles. A carefully designed interface can be the “little black dress” that makes AI accessible and valuable to users, balancing innovation and ease-of-use.

Imagine an AI system with the elegance and sophistication of a Chanel suit – intuitive, practical, and undeniably chic. Such an interface can revolutionize the way users interact with AI.

To achieve this, businesses must consider the following aspects:

  • Intuitive Design: The interface should be easy to use and navigate, ensuring users feel comfortable with the AI enhancements.
  • Flexibility: Allow for customization and adaptation, letting users tailor the AI to their specific needs.
  • Visual Appeal: Aesthetics play a crucial role in user engagement, so the interface should be visually pleasing and engaging.
  • The Art of Strategic Decision Making: The Fashionable Playbook

The key distinction seems to be that bolt-on generative AI enhances and supplements existing tools or services, while new product uses involve building AI systems and experiences directly focused on generating creative content or designs. Many companies will likely pursue a hybrid approach, as generative AI becomes more advanced and broadly applied.

Industry-Specific Considerations and Technological Hurdles

Each industry has its own unique landscape, presenting individual challenges and opportunities when it comes to implementing AI.

For instance, the healthcare sector grapples with stringent regulations around data privacy, such as HIPAA in the United States. AI applications in this domain often involve processing sensitive patient data, necessitating robust security measures and adherence to privacy laws. An example is IBM Watson Health, which employs AI to analyze complex medical data. While this technology can potentially revolutionize patient care, it must be implemented in a way that safeguards patient privacy.

In the retail industry, the focus is often on enhancing customer experiences. AI can help achieve this through personalization algorithms that tailor product recommendations to individual user preferences. Amazon’s recommendation engine is a prime example of this application. While this is an effective way to boost sales and customer satisfaction, it also raises unique challenges, such as ensuring the accuracy and reliability of recommendations, maintaining customer trust, and handling the massive amounts of data involved.

In the manufacturing sector, AI can optimize production processes, improve quality control, and predict maintenance needs. However, integrating AI in this context often requires a significant overhaul of existing systems and infrastructures. For instance, Siemens uses AI to predict and prevent system failures in its manufacturing plants. To do this effectively, Siemens had to implement a complex system of sensors and data collection points, and train machine learning models on this data – a process that required significant technical expertise and resources.

Choosing whether to accessorize existing processes with AI or to launch an entirely new AI-based line is a complex decision. This choice should be informed by a range of factors, including the specific constraints and opportunities of the industry, the size and resources of the company, its organizational culture, the needs and preferences of its customer base, and the technical feasibility of different AI implementations.

When integrating AI with legacy systems, businesses face a range of technical challenges. These might include ensuring compatibility between new and old systems, maintaining system performance and reliability during the integration process, and training staff to use and manage the new technology. Successful integration often requires a combination of skilled technical expertise, careful planning, and effective change management.

Ethical Implications and Future Horizons

While AI presents a bounty of opportunities, it also introduces ethical dilemmas such as job displacement and bias within AI algorithms. Businesses need to address these concerns while implementing AI to ensure an equitable and inclusive approach.

  • Job Displacement: AI’s ability to boost productivity and efficiency comes with the potential to automate certain jobs, leading to displacement. Companies must navigate this issue delicately, focusing on retraining and upskilling employees where feasible.
  • Bias in AI: AI algorithms can sometimes mirror or even amplify societal biases, leading to unjust outcomes. Companies need to ensure their AI systems are transparent and fair, employing techniques like bias audits and fairness metrics.
  • Data Privacy: AI systems often depend on large amounts of data, raising considerable privacy concerns. Companies must adhere to data protection regulations and ensure ethical data usage.

Looking ahead, AI’s influence in the business world is expected to increase. Emerging technologies such as quantum computing could amplify AI’s capabilities, while evolving regulations might influence how AI is utilized. 

Like a fashionista deciding between a new necklace or a whole new ensemble, businesses must decide their own unique style when it comes to AI. But remember, in many cases, a blend of both – a little accessorizing here, a new collection there – may prove to be the most chic and effective strategy, allowing businesses to enjoy the best of both worlds.

So, don your best fashion-forward thinking cap, and stride confidently into the world of AI. Now Shante!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.