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By Tess Buckley, Analyst, EthicsGrade

The path of an idea from mind to market. How should the governance of an idea be reflected in its maturity?

As an idea transitions from the mind to the market, it must be passed on from innovators to researchers and developers, and governance should follow suit, maturing at a similar pace as the idea itself. This path can be encapsulated by the notion that innovation often has an inverse relationship with governance. Moreover, ideas must be given sufficient breathing room before governance and research and development (R&D) restrict or ground innovators’ dreams in reality.

Innovation and governance are often two opposing forces that must be delicately balanced as ideas progress from their inception to market. It is essential to recognize that innovation often has an inverse relationship with governance, as overly restrictive governance can stifle creativity and prevent novel ideas from coming to fruition. In this sense, innovators can be likened to wild horses that must be tamed by trainers (i.e., strategists, regulators, and operations) to become fit for the race of the real world.

Let us use the analogy to illustrate this point, where innovators are akin to wild horses, undomesticated and unconcerned with rules, often challenging humans and being a force that is not subject to control. Through this lack of control, wild horses or innovators can disrupt the normal. This is not to say that these wild horses or innovators should not be tamed by trainers such as strategists, regulators, and operations to be fit for the real world, but when they are tamed, they are no longer disruptive horses. Let us not discredit the trained horse’s talent, but rather emphasize that the “chaos” and freedom allowed by wild horses or innovators are integral to any business.

The governance of artificial intelligence (AI) is dependent on the stage the idea is at, one must consider that governance of practice should reflect the process of innovators, whose ideas, if grounded or tamed too early, can be crushed before they even begin to take flight. Governance must be applied at the appropriate stage of an idea’s development. At the ideation stage, innovators are free to explore their ideas without the burden of governance. As the idea progresses to the proof-of-concept stage, governance considerations should increase, as the idea begins to impact more people. The demo and pilot stages further require more governance to manage sensitivity and ensure that the idea is safe to deploy.

Innovation is about taking ideas or lightbulb moments and turning them into money by going through a process of research and development. Through demos, proof of concepts, and pilots, the project increases in value and hopefully governance maturity, and the wild horse slowly becomes tamed.

In the beginning, the skill set that manages ideas is that of innovators, the creatives who do not need to consider logistical hazards such as governance. At this ideation stage, the real world is not considered, and the idea lives in a lab. There is no need for governance because there is no potential harm caused; one simply needs to record the concept and give credit where credit is due.

Through the evaluation of how viable this potential idea would be as a business solution; one can prioritize its governance and advancement to the next stage. As the idea progresses to the proof-of-concept stage, the innovator is tamed, and governance considerations should increase. If the idea is deemed viable by strategists, it may proceed to the demo stage. Here, governance may be used to ensure that the demo is only shared with a small group of people, and no sensitive data is provided if it lives outside of the innovator’s infrastructure. Another stage of the idea, perhaps one of the later stages, is a pilot, where the operations team is involved, and real users are engaged for a limited amount of time. Here, more governance is required, as the concept leaves one’s mind and begins to impact more people

It is crucial to recognize that ideas should not be tamed or governed in the same way as demos or proof of concepts, as ideas exist purely in the mind and do not impact anyone until they are deployed. AI governance should reflect the maturity of the stage of an idea. If the idea lives in a lab and does not have customer data or sensitive data, it is purely an experiment and does not require governance. If it is a demo, and there is a limited set of users, sensitivity can be managed with low governance. If AI is out in the world and the idea is at a stage where it has been researched and developed beyond innovation, pushed by the operations team, and strategists, and shaped by the IT department, and it is very accessible with practically no controls, governance is necessary. Overly restrictive governance during the ideation stage can stifle creativity and prevent new ideas from emerging. Innovators should be free to explore their ideas without the burden of governance until the idea progresses to a stage where governance is necessary.

In conclusion, innovation and governance seem to strike a delicate balanced to ensure that ideas can progress from their inception to market. Applying governance at the appropriate stage of an idea’s development is essential.

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