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Executive Education

Artificial Intelligence (A.I) for Business

Critical learning of an emerging landscape

Torbjörn Sköld

Vice President DePuy Synthes EMEA

The programme has given me an enormous boost in confidence in this field, and really opened my eyes to the potential and the kinds of new technologies we can add to our portfolio

Deep learning: How AI for Business sifts the “real potential from the hype”

Torbjörn Sköld (MBA 2007) explains how AI for Business isn’t just about understanding the vast potential of machine learning in a changing landscape – it’s a unique opportunity to see under the hood and distinguish what’s real from what’s not.

When your industry is being disrupted there’s an imperative to do your best to stay up to speed with change. You also need to be able to figure out what’s really going on, and what’s just “hype.”

So says Torbjörn Sköld.   

Vice President DePuy Synthes at Johnson & Johnson, and head of corporate strategy in orthopaedic devices in Europe, Middle East and Africa, Sköld has held leadership roles in healthcare for more than a decade. During his tenure, he has seen digital disruption significantly change the playing field in the sector. 

A desire to understand both the technical and business impact of advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning brought him to the AI for Business programme earlier this year. And back to INSEAD. 

“I did my MBA at INSEAD back in 2007 and I have a deep connection with the school. Going back to INSEAD to update my knowledge in AI and digital disruption felt like the most and natural obvious choice.”

Mobilised by a long-held curiosity about AI and a need to get “under the hood,” Sköld went into the programme with high expectations. 

“I’d been interested in machine learning and its impact for some time and I was ready for a formal foundation on the topic. I’d already read numerous articles and books, but I wanted a disciplined and guided approach, with expert input, to gain the technical knowledge as well as a broader understanding of the context and the implications for my industry.”

While the programme not only delivered in terms of technical and business understanding, says Sköld, it also gave him a “hands-on” feeling for real-world application that far exceeded his expectations. 

“I really loved the combination of theory and practice. As with the MBA, a lot of the learning was built around case studies led by expert faculty from lots of different disciplines. That meant that we were able to explore the kinds of real-life issues that business leaders face every day, while really getting to grips with the technology itself – the algorithms and the programming that goes on under the hood.”

Then there was the peer dynamic. 

“There were a few other healthcare leaders in the programme, but the participant mix was hugely diverse. I learnt an enormous amount from fellow participants in fields like IT and banking which are sectors I don’t often have exposure to. Discovering the challenges they face and gleaning insights and technical tips from them was hugely enriching.”

Sköld has emerged from the programme with a new level of confidence, he says. And a renewed appetite for building AI into external and internal business development. 

“In my field, a high proportion of the opportunities out there include AI and machine learning both in internal operations and outward-facing, customer services. AI has exciting potential in terms of patient diagnosis and in selecting the right treatment. And this will only increase over time. The programme has given me an enormous boost in confidence in this field, and really opened my eyes to the potential and the kinds of new technologies we can add to our portfolio.”

Programmes like AI for Business are “critical,” says Sköld, as they not only gives leaders like himself the chance to update knowledge and understanding, and remain ahead of the curve in changing times; they are also a unique opportunity to cut through the “hype.”

“Over the next 10 years we are going to see exponential change in fields like healthcare. I believe we will see a significant move from the physical device market to a focus on data, intelligence and connectivity, and AI is going to be a core asset in future value propositions. Being able to sift what’s real and true from what is just fluff or hype in this emerging landscape, this is what’s going to be absolutely critical for leaders like me.” 

Sköld strongly recommends that senior executives like himself build AI for Business into their professional development objectives, although he has one caveat. 

“This is an extraordinary opportunity to get the general and academic foundation you would expect from a school as exciting, inspiring and stimulating as INSEAD. But you need to go into the programme with the kind of curiosity and interest that it demands in order to reap the full rewards. AI for Business is deep learning – you are going to explore the concepts and you are going to experience the kinds of practical and technical deep dives that bring that learning to life. For me, I can honestly say that this is the best course I’ve taken.”