Leading Real People In An AI World
Generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) has been an increasing topic of discussion in the workplace in almost every industry. In 2023, we witnessed the heated writers’ strike in which AI was a key factor. Both writers, actors and studio owners recognized the vast and nuanced potential of using AI in their field and its need to be discussed in-depth.
Professor David Gunkel, an expert and author on GenAI, examines how it can affect the social, legal and moral structure of today’s workplaces and societies. In an Associated Press article regarding the Hollywood writers’ strike, Gunkel expressed his belief that “no one is able to anticipate everything that might come up with generative AI in the creative industries.” So after five months of ongoing conversations, both sides came to a tentative agreement but acknowledged that “the legal landscape around the use of (generative AI) is uncertain and rapidly developing.” Continued conversation and negotiations were written into the settlement.
What does that mean for business leaders in other industries?
Involve All Stakeholders In The Decision
The first step is including all levels of the organization in the decision-making process to acquire certain technology. Sometimes higher-level executives will take on technology that they themselves will not use with any consistency and then leave the workers to figure it out on their own. However, by including employees who will be using this technology daily in the conversation to create or purchase a new software program, better decisions can be made. These employees can provide valuable insight into what to look for in software needs.
Once innovative technology is decided upon, commit to having an open and genuine conversation about GenAI with your team. Each person may have a different outlook on adapting this technology to their day-to-day life.
In a recent McKinsey Talks podcast, Melissa Valentine and Bryan Hancock discuss the idea of GenAI as a “co-pilot” designed to augment human potential. I find that concept intriguing and accurate. Valentine explains that most workers warm to the idea of AI completing mundane tasks that enable them to focus on other aspects of their role. Who wouldn’t want that extra help?
Explain The Day-To-Day Benefits
Several of the clients I work with are finding two main strains of resistance in their teams when it comes to AI: aversion to learning new technology and a lack of understanding about the usefulness of said technology. I personally have sat through presentations where a leader has ranted and raved about the benefits of a new system to the company, which is fantastic.
However, those lectures do not translate to the day-to-day job of an individual. Leaders should present the technology on a more cellular level and explain the benefits to the worker or team. Specifically, how will this AI improve performance, aid in everyday tasks or save time? Once someone understands the benefit, they are generally more excited about sitting down to learn the nitty-gritty of how to incorporate technology into their role.
Another crucial factor in leading people to successfully maximize AI is to supply ongoing training and even brainstorming sessions. A team of nurses I met in a hospital expressed frustration over this lack of training. The hospital they worked in had recently switched owners and had changed not only several tech systems—but also medical supplies and products that nurses were expected to work with and administer to patients daily.
They were provided with a 30-minute video PowerPoint presentation to watch in their own time, and that was it. Because they were a tight-knit team, they were able to work together to figure out the ins and outs of the system as well as brainstorm the best uses of each product to use during their shifts. However, the lack of hands-on training from their leadership was disheartening, to say the least, and the successful incorporation of these new products and systems took much longer than it should have.
AI has exciting implications and potential for companies in all industries if employees are encouraged to embrace a learning mentality and explore the benefits of technology in a practical capacity through informal conversations, hands-on-trainings and follow-up brainstorming sessions provided by their leadership team. Only then can the new AI be welcomed into the workplace as the excellent co-pilot it was designed to be.
This article has previously been featured on Forbes