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The Rapid Growth of AI

Over the past two years, artificial intelligence has gone from a topic explored by sci-fi writers and scientists working in huge tech companies to mainstream adoption. We transitioned from imagining human-like robots working on factory floors to hanging out in 90s-style chatrooms with our new AI friends. The wave of AI has come and many businesses are struggling to respond, losing out on opportunities to significantly improve efficiency, quality, and employee satisfaction.

We’ve come to realize that the people impacted first by AI will not necessarily be the front-line workers many expected. In reality, AI's influence seems increasingly likely to disrupt skilled knowledge workers, particularly those involved in data-driven decision-making. This includes narrowing the skill gap between low- and high-skilled workers. Generative AI’s ability to take in natural language and provide instant access to a wide range of information, coupled with its analytics capabilities, creates an experience we previously perceived to be uniquely human. In this piece, I’ll cover the primary ways in which these developments can influence organizations.

AI's Impact on the Workforce

A rapid shift in how we work inevitably creates disruption and confusion. It also brings opportunities.

Early studies have demonstrated the massive impact of generative AI in the workplace and what businesses leave on the table when they ignore or lag behind the AI wave. According to Nielsen Norman Group, AI can improve employee productivity by as much as 66% by streamlining workflows and automating tasks. Impressively, they found that the quality of work also improved. Even highly skilled workers—your top performers—experience 40% gains in efficiency when using generative AI.

40% of organizations are exploring or experimenting with AI

The benefits of generative AI don’t stop at an employee’s performance; they also impact employee satisfaction. We recently completed the Working Genius model, a way to uncover strengths and weaknesses in a group, to better understand how our team members work most effectively. My results, unsurprisingly, have me positioned in the “Wonder” and “Invention” categories, with my strengths falling as they move toward “Enablement” and “Tenacity.” In other words, I love planning the grand adventure but hate dealing with the day-to-day hassles after we’ve left on our journey. Luckily, ChatGPT Pro has no issue taking some of those tasks off my plate. And that makes me happy.

For example, I often use ChatGPT to help me outline and write proposals. I'm great at crafting high-level strategies and identifying how we can deliver maximal value to our clients. However, the repetitive nature of proposal writing plays into my weaknesses more than my strengths. To remedy this, I built a custom GPT that pulls elements from hundreds of previously written proposals to automate the process. It matches our tone and dramatically accelerates the process of creating a first draft. It’s not perfect, but it allows me to play to my strengths.

Beyond offloading tedious tasks, generative AI can also benefit employees by supporting growth and development as a learning tool, providing ready access to important organizational information through custom chatbots, and narrowing the skill gap between employees. All of these benefits have roots in cultures that produce happy employees.

When we’re working through organizational issues with our clients, we often encourage leaders and their team members to learn more about specific concepts or frameworks that could be useful in their day-to-day. With the assistance of ChatGPT, those folks are now able to get coherent summaries of those items and, with some novel prompting, find manageable ways to integrate them into their workflow. Rather than asking a group of people to read an entire book or listen to a whole podcast ChatGPT makes crucial concepts available in digestible, conversational bits within seconds.

Spencer Harris, President of Mostly Serious

The Rising Tide of AI in Business

At Mostly Serious, we’ve had the opportunity to train many organizations on how to introduce, adopt, and leverage AI through a variety of custom engagements, association and conference workshops, and community events. At the start of these sessions, we explore how attendees are currently using AI, and we hear the same story over and over: employers are dragging their feet on establishing policies and giving people direction, so employees are using the tools without telling the company.

73% of organizations have adopted AI in some part of their business.

According to IBM, 40% of organizations are exploring or experimenting with AI and 73% have adopted AI in some part of their business. The critical phrase is “some part.” As leaders struggle to determine how to address AI adoption across the organization, team members and entire departments are going rogue, using AI behind closed doors and on personal devices to supplement their work. This institutional approach of limiting AI ignores historical evidence that organizationally-supported approaches to AI actually enhance innovation. Take Amazon, for example:

In a now famous example from the early 2010s, Jeff Bezos mandated that every leader across Amazon plan for how they would use AI and machine learning (ML) to help the company compete and win. This imperative drove unparalleled innovation and was cited as the catalyst for the Amazon’s rise to become an AI leader today. Many of the strongest AI strategies start in this same way: by pushing clear objectives down to business leadership, so they can identify gaps and opportunities within their divisions and work backward from there to apply AI as a solution.

One of the greatest benefits of generative AI is also a major challenge for organizations. Tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Microsoft’s Copilot, Google’s Bard, and Anthropic’s Claude offer huge gains at the individual level. However, it is very difficult for business leaders to come together and determine the short-term and long-term impact on the company by using these tools. Further, when companies introduce new technology, they are accustomed to going through a robust digital transformation process with a clear roadmap for the future. Generative AI breaks that model by offering immediate benefits to employees without requiring a long-term implementation plan.

Instead of the traditional digital transformation toolset, businesses benefit from an iterative, agile approach to generative AI adoption. This is a unique instance where the vision for generative AI can be produced, in large part, from the ground up. By giving employees access, training, and permission to leverage AI within the bounds of an organization’s ethical and legal guidelines, they can feed ideas back to leadership on how to best leverage the tool. Give them AI-powered fishing poles, and they’ll teach you new ways to fish.

Falling behind may not seem like a critical mistake at this moment. After all, what AI is today is entirely different than what AI was a year ago. That trend is unlikely to stop. However, companies that adopt an agile, iterative approach will unlock competitive advantages highly niched to their service and product offerings that it may take decades for third-party tools to reach.

The Importance of AI Training

We know that generative AI offers a staggering impact on efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction. We also know that sending folks off to explore AI tools on their own, without organizational support or guidance, is likely to cause two problems: lower levels of institutional adoption and potential misalignment with company expectations.

We have designed an AI training service to solve both problems.

Inspiring Employees

The first problem, institutional adoption, starts with employee adoption, which often fails due to a lack of knowledge and inspiration. But we have evidence that these barriers are easily overcomeable.

We inspire and equip teams with knowledge through a custom AI training program that starts by establishing an understanding of workflows within the team or department. After defining workflows, we craft prompts, build tailored custom GPTs, and update the hands-on portion of the training session to fully align with the organization.

I recently led training for a large organization and was greeted by an experienced manager who told me he wasn’t that interested in AI. He had used the free version of ChatGPT, and it hadn’t impressed him. Midway through, as I was walking through a tailored prompt for his department that analyzed data and returned an executive summary with charts and graphs, he leaned forward and said, “That’s a large portion of my job. This changes everything.”

Through our interactive and engaging workshops, attendees don’t just see the capabilities of AI tools; they see the exact ways in which they can leverage them to do their jobs.

AI changes everything

Aligning Organizations

The second problem is ensuring that employees using AI are aligned with the company’s broader goals and standards and that they have the resources needed to enact continuous improvement across teams and departments.

We tackle this challenge by starting with strategic planning. Typically, strategic planning is thought of as an annual exercise by leaders, but we’ve found the same approach to be extremely beneficial on special projects and initiatives. We start every project at Mostly Serious with a strategic session in line with the demands of the relationship. Through our consulting team, Habitat Communication & Culture, we regularly support our client’s initiatives by leveraging the OKR model to establish measurable metrics to track success, from complex service transitions to succession plans.

Institutional AI adoption is no different. Creating clarity in goals and guidelines ensures leadership is in touch with AI developments while providing the support necessary to their teams to ensure success.

Once we’ve developed a coherent, strategic approach to AI adoption, we help organizations develop support systems that employees will leverage to maximize the impact of AI on the business. At Mostly Serious, this includes Lunch & Learns to share the latest in AI development and how our teams are leveraging the tools, a shared AI Slack channel to surface prompts and approaches that work well, and a dedicated committee to track AI advancements and ensure the newest benefits reach all of our team members.

Our AI Workshop Process: AI-focused Strategic Planning, Workflow & Task Survey, Tailored Workshop Design, Workshop Facilitation, Q&A & Follow ups

Putting it All Together

We conduct this process through our tailored AI workshop aimed to give teams AI superpowers by creating custom prompts, use cases, and crafting GPTs to the specific needs of the organization, all delivered in an interactive workshop and supplementary documentation.

Here’s what the process looks like:

AI-focused Strategic Planning

We bring leaders together to align organizational goals with opportunities unlocked by generative AI. Working with our legal partners, we create AI policies and guidelines. And we set clear metrics to track success as AI is introduced and, in turn, begins to shape the organization. We leverage the results to align teams with the organization.

Workflow & Task Survey

We craft an electronic survey to gain a better understanding of the team’s experience with AI, day-to-day workflow, and common tasks. We use this information to craft a tailored workshop that surfaces practical ways AI can support the team.

Tailored Workshop Design

Leveraging the information gathered in our workflow & task survey, we tailor the workshop to the team’s specific needs and opportunities, including creating custom prompts that unlock the potential of AI for the team and organization.

Workshop Facilitation

We lead an in-person primer on AI followed by a facilitated hands-on AI workshop. After establishing a baseline understanding of the benefits of AI, we break attendees into teams to plan practical ways AI can be inserted into workflows.

Q&A & Followups

Our sessions end with an open Q&A. After the event, we provide links to the presentation and a document capturing the custom prompts used in the workshop. We also provide up to 2 total hours of email follow-up support to attendees.

We’ve found this approach to be accessible and high-impact, leading to near-universal positive feedback from hundreds of attendees, even self-proclaimed luddites. This is the best first step we have identified for organizations to introduce immediate AI efficiency and quality improvements while setting the stage for custom solutions in the future.

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