Introducing The Mindful AI Canvas

These are exciting times for businesses interested in exploring the potential of artificial intelligence. But they are daunting times as well. Although it’s easy to get excited about a future where AI is making the world a better place, figuring how to get started today isn’t so easy. By Mike Edmonds
The Mindful AI Canvas

In the spirit of helping businesses find an actionable way forward, we were privileged to partner with Microsoft to lead “Microsoft AI in Action,” an event designed to inspire, educate, and empower:

  • Inspire people to imagine a world in which AI augments human potential.
  • Educate people on the latest updates to Microsoft’s suite of AI capabilities and technologies.
  • Empower people with a collaborative process to co-create human-centric use cases for AI.

The event culminated with a workshop we facilitated to bring together several Chicagoland enterprises centered around a tool we call the Mindful AI Canvas. The Mindful AI Canvas helps cross-functional teams co-create AI-powered experiences with awareness of the intentions and emotions we hope to evoke. In short, the Mindful AI Canvas helps put people first. 

What is Mindful AI?

Ahmer Inam (who recently joined our organization as chief artificial intelligence office) kicked things off with an inspirational keynote where he defined mindful AI as:

“Being aware and purposeful of the intentions and emotions we hope to evoke through an artificial intelligent experience.”

Ahmer shared a few inspiring examples of applications that demonstrate we’re on the path to mindful AI. For example, epidemiologist BlueDot used AI to warn the world of the coronavirus outbreak before the World Health Organization did. BlueDot uses algorithms powered by AI to analyze information from many sources (ranging from news reports to airline ticketing data), identify disease outbreaks, and forecast how they may spread. On December 31, 2019, BlueDot warned its customers to stay away from Wuhan, China, the source of the virus – 10 days before the World Health Organization warned the public. BlueDot’s algorithm is so good that it predicted the spread of the virus from Wuhan to Bangkok, Seoul, Taipei, and Tokyo after the virus first hit.

Here we see an example of how mindful AI can serve society. BlueDot put the needs of people first – literally all around the world. This kind of public service at a global scale simply could not be possible without AI.

Microsoft Azure AI

Mindful AI is about putting people first, but we need technology to make it happen. To that end, Caroline Matthews, cloud solution architect, Microsoft, helped the businesses in attendance understand the power of technology to power AI solutions at scale. She shared her perspectives through the lens of Microsoft Azure AI, a set of cloud-based technology services that support AI development. She showed, in very convincing ways, how components of AI, including machine learning and knowledge mining, can deliver AI solutions that make businesses better – and enrich our lives.

I encourage you to check out the following videos to learn about two key examples Caroline shared of AI in Action, Marks & Spencer and Thyssenkrupp.

The Mindful AI Canvas Explained

With a keynote emphasizing a human-centric approach to AI and an understanding of the technologies required to bring AI experiences to life, the participants had a solid foundation to begin co-creating.

The Mindful AI Canvas
The Mindful AI Canvas


Mindful AI begins with identifying who we are solving for. The top two sections of the Canvas, Concept Name & Summary and Target Audience, describe the idea in plain language and clearly articulate the people who will be affected by the experience.

The next section, Emotions, Intentions, and Value, focuses on “the why.” The Emotions component describes the feelings we are trying to evoke with the AI-powered experience. We used the Emotions Wheel from the Junto Institute to help participants select from a range of human emotions. The Intentions section helps participants identify the desired relationship between the AI experience and the primary audience. The canvas includes a handful of relationships such as coach, matchmaker, host, mentor, and sidekick as a prompt. Value describes how the experience aligns with objectives of the business, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

With a solid foundation of the who and the why, the next section helps describe “the what.” In free-form fashion, participants sketch the core aspects of the user experience. We encourage teams to be as creative as possible, sketching people, environments, and the concept itself with visuals, pictures, and shapes.

“The How” section, consisting of Inputs, Outputs, and Trust, focuses on the AI portion of the co-created concept. This section includes the data that is required to deliver the intended experience, the desired outputs, and an explanation of how the experience will ensure privacy, security, and integrity. During the workshop, we also included a section titled “Leap of Faith Assumptions” to help teams articulate the riskiest assumptions associated with their concept. It’s important to note the hierarchy of how the canvas is put together. Sequencing the AI portions after the who, why, and how sections are filled out helps participants ensure their concept is putting people first.

Testing and Learning

Our workshop concluded with an activity where each group shared their concepts with the entire audience, critiquing the ideas and proposing ways to improve them. After each group shared, we concluded the workshop with a simple question to the attendees:

“how did it feel using the Mindful AI Canvas?”

A few words attendees provided were enamoredproud, and helpful

It was inspiring, educational, and empowering to co-create human-centric AI experiences with Chicagoland businesses. AI is not a mystery. Tools exist to help businesses employ AI in a mindful way. If you’re interested in learning more about the Mindful AI Canvas, please get in touch.


The Mindful AI Canvas