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AI Complexity vs Difficulty

Devlin Liles Headshot

August 9, 2023 | 3 Minute Read

In the realm of problem-solving, there exists an essential distinction: complexity versus difficulty. Often, these two challenges are lumped together, an array of obstacles we tackle on our path to solutions. However, when we introduce artificial intelligence (AI) to aid in this contest, it becomes crucial to distinguish between the two. Here, we explore their individual roles in business challenges and demonstrate how AI can be most effectively utilized.

Consider two tasks: cooking a sophisticated dish and hosting a dinner party. One is complex and the other is difficult.

Complex problems, like following a multi-step recipe, can be challenging due to the number of ingredients, their rarity, the precision required, or the time taken for preparation. Yet, if you adhere to the recipe precisely, you'll produce the desired dish. Implementing a new HR benefits program across a global company might be considered a complex problem. Many steps are involved, it requires significant resources, and the process may be time-consuming. However, the steps are clear, and with careful planning and execution, you can anticipate a successful implementation.

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Difficult problems, on the other hand, are like hosting a successful dinner party for a diverse group of guests with unique preferences and dietary restrictions. There's no set of rules or recipes to follow. The task involves not just cooking but understanding your guests, coordinating timings, creating a comfortable atmosphere, and responding dynamically to unforeseen events. Similarly, navigating a company through a major market disruption might be considered a difficult problem. Multiple variables are at play, and the situation is constantly evolving. No rulebook can guide you to success. Instead, you must understand the dynamic interplay of these variables, be agile, make judicious decisions based on incomplete information, and constantly adapt. 

Complexity and difficulty have been intertwined over time, leading to increasingly intricate problems. Simple, well-targeted solutions often provide the best outcomes. AI, while lacking the ability to fully mimic the sophistication of the human mind, compensates with its capacity to handle complexity. The key is knowing how to find the right balance. 

Start by breaking down your business problems into two categories: data-centric tasks and decision-making processes. Data-centric tasks include data collection and number-crunching, tasks that, while complex, can be managed by AI. This frees up your human workforce to focus on what they excel at. 

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Decision-making processes require evaluating data, understanding how to weigh different elements, and considering the potential impacts of a decision. This is where human intuition and understanding are critical. Here, the 'difficulty' in the scenario can be more efficiently managed through human-centric processes. 

Ideally, use AI for complex tasks and leverage human skills for difficult ones. This allows AI to handle large data sets, while humans navigate decision-making. It's not about pitting AI against humans but rather integrating the two to effectively tackle any problem. 

Complexity and difficulty might seem similar, but they require different strategies. By understanding these distinctions and using each where they are most effective, businesses can truly harness the best of both worlds. 

Ready to start your AI journey or need help along the way? Reach out to us!


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