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The five levels of denial about AI that companies often go through before adopting it can be seen as stages of recognition and acceptance. These stages reflect the gradual shift from skepticism to embracing AI as a critical component of their operations and strategy:

1. Ignorance: "AI is Irrelevant to Us"


  • Lack of Awareness: Companies at this stage are largely unaware of AI’s capabilities and potential benefits.

  • Dismissal: AI is seen as a buzzword or a technology relevant only to tech giants or specific industries, not to their own business.


  • Dismissing AI as hype without understanding its applications is a dangerous place to be in both business and a career.

  • Ignoring industry trends and developments. The challenge is being unable to recognize how fast this technology is evolving. It will make the disruption from the internet and e-commerce look benign.

2. Skepticism: "AI Won't Impact Our Industry"


  • Doubt: Companies recognize AI's existence but doubt its relevance or impact on their industry or business model.

  • Underestimation: They underestimate AI's potential to disrupt or enhance their industry. The biggest missed opportunity is misinterpreting AI as just a tool to create rather than analyze and make predictions.


  • Believing their industry is too niche or unique for AI to be applicable.

  • Assuming that their current business processes and models are sufficient without AI.

3. Reluctance: "AI is Too Risky and Expensive"


  • Fear of Change: Concerns about the risks, costs, and complexities associated with AI implementation.

  • Budget Constraints: Viewing AI as a high-cost investment without immediate returns.

  • Regrettably, this is where many organizations are now stuck with choices in which technology to invest in.


  • Hesitation due to potential job displacement or ethical concerns.

  • Worrying about the initial investment and ongoing costs of AI technologies.

  • Choosing the wrong technology.

4. Recognition: "We Need to Understand AI Better"


  • Awareness: Companies begin to recognize the potential benefits of AI and the risks of falling behind competitors who adopt it.

  • Education and Exploration: Starting to educate themselves about AI, its applications, and its potential ROI.


  • Attending AI seminars, conferences, and workshops.

  • Conducting pilot projects or small-scale experiments to understand AI’s impact.

5. Acceptance: "AI is Essential for Our Future"


  • Commitment: Full acceptance of AI’s importance and a commitment to integrating it into their business strategy.

  • Strategic Implementation: Investing in AI technologies and developing a clear AI strategy to drive growth and innovation.


  • Allocating budgets and resources for AI projects.

  • Building or hiring AI expertise within the organization and implementing AI solutions across various functions.

6. "AI is Here, But We're Not Ready"


  • Acknowledgement: Companies fully recognize AI's transformative power and understand that it is essential for future competitiveness and innovation.

  • Perceived Unpreparedness: Despite this recognition, there is a prevailing belief that the company lacks the necessary infrastructure, skills, or culture to adopt AI successfully.

  • Fear of Failure: Concerns about the potential implementation pitfalls, such as integration challenges, workforce resistance, and the ability to manage and maintain AI systems.


  • Some people believe that the company’s technology stack is outdated and incompatible with AI solutions. This may be true, but unless the company explores all available resources, it will stagnate.

  • Feeling that the workforce lacks the necessary skills and expertise to operate and manage AI technologies.

  • Worrying about the cultural shift required to integrate AI into existing workflows and processes.

Overcoming the Sixth Denial:

  1. Skills Development: Invest in training and upskilling employees to build AI literacy and technical expertise within the organization.

  2. Infrastructure Upgrades: Upgrade IT infrastructure to support AI implementation, ensuring it can handle the data processing and storage requirements.

  3. Change Management: Implement change management strategies to foster a culture of innovation and adaptability, addressing workforce resistance and promoting a positive attitude towards AI.

  4. Strategic Partnerships: Collaborate with AI vendors, consultants, and academic institutions to gain access to expertise and resources that can aid in the transition.

  5. Incremental Implementation: Start with small, manageable AI projects that can demonstrate value and build confidence before scaling up to more complex implementations.


The journey from denial to acceptance of AI involves moving from ignorance and skepticism through reluctance and recognition, ultimately leading to full acceptance and strategic implementation. This progression reflects a company’s evolving understanding of AI's potential and the necessary steps to leverage its benefits, ensuring it remains competitive and innovative in its industry.

My name is George Minakakis, and I am the CEO of Inception Retail Group. I am a globally trained and experienced senior executive from retail and food service to healthcare and the energy sector. I have lived and worked in Canada, the US, and China leading retail brands. I am the Author of three books soon to be five a thought leader and keynote speaker. You can reach me here at 

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