Every week, I scan the news for must-know stories about the employee-centric, happier, distributed, and AI-driven future of work.
After OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman explains how ChatGPT works in his TED Talk "The Inside Story of ChatGPT's Astonishing Potential," head of TED Chris Anderson, comes onto the stage, visibly befuddled.
"Oh my goodness, pretty much every single thing about the way I work, I need to rethink," Chris says. "Who thinks that they're having to rethink the way that we do things?," he asks the audience.
Chris concludes by saying: "Yeah, I mean, it's amazing, but it's also really scary." For anyone who's been looking into (Generative) AI and the jobs AI will replace, it's hard to escape a similar sentiment.
(Note: AI is developing rapidly. Take a look at our six must-know AI trends in 2024.)
The massive surge in AI usage
In December last year, I wrote my article about how ChatGPT and Generative AI will disrupt HR.. Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that the acceleration of AI's development and adoption would have gone so fast.
I marveled at its pace of achieving 1 million active users back then. A few months later, the service already clocked over 100 million users, and adoption isn't stopping.
What is driving this massive surge in AI adoption? For one, the technology is improving daily, driving mass awareness.
Additionally, technologist R. David Edelman, who judged the Forbes AI 50, noted in an interview about this year's list that AI tools are more "consumer-friendly." Choosing AI tools in companies moves from being a tech matter done by the CIO to managers across departments using these tools as an alternative to traditional employee management software.
What are ChatGPT and Generative AI?
For most, it will be helpful to take a step back and reflect on what we know so far about AI, Generative AI, and ChatGPT as the stand-out application of it.
AI, or Artificial Intelligence, is the simulation of human intelligence in machines programmed to think and learn like humans.
Generative AI is a group of Artificial Intelligence-powered platforms that can create new content based on user inputs, making daily work easier.
While Google uses AI to link relevant web pages, ChatGPT employs language models and additional machine-learning techniques to provide comprehensive answers in a human-like language.
It's like someone who has internalized the entire internet and can turn that information into anything you'd like, all in real-time.
Unlike previous language models, which already powered tools like Google, ChatGPT, and similar applications are based on "Transformers."
Transformers model the importance of one piece of data in a sequence related to another. This allows it to be much 'smarter' than previous models. (In the video below from Google's Dale Markowitz, the concept is explained in more detail if you're up for it.)
New GPT Models and AutoGPT
In March, OpenAI released GPT-4, an advanced model compared to ChatGPT that accepts both text and images as inputs. This has increased the capabilities of ChatGPT significantly, and the tool has become considerably more reliable.
In a fascinating conversation about Copy.AI, This Week in Startups host Jason Calacanis and Copy.AI founder Paul Yacoubian discuss how the outputs of ChatGPT over the years have gone from 1% usable to 90% functional.
Jason likened it to GPS. You could only use it for broad directions when it first came around. Now it's so accurate that we follow it blindly, not even needing to know our way around places anymore.
With the introduction of AutoGPT, which goes beyond just sharing information and can take action autonomously, the amount of work we can offload to AI will only increase. AutoGPT is the first way that people can use AI to actually perform actions on its own and get work done for us.
This, of course, begs the question, how will AI change the way we manage?
Without stressing out TED founder Chris Anderson even more, below is why we must now pay much closer attention to AI and how it will disrupt how we work and manage.
Work is changing thanks to AI.
The fast-paced development of AI means the nature of work will change, says Geoffrey Hinton, the "Godfather of Artificial Intelligence," in a terrific interview with CBS Saturday Morning's Brook Silva-Braga. "It will make jobs different. People will focus more on the creative and less on the routine end."
He gives the example of when ATMs were introduced, bank tellers started focusing on more complicated things. Geoffrey argues it's the same for programmers. Instead of cutting the number of coders, you can increase their effectiveness by ten times.
Copy.ai's Paul Yacoubian sees this differently, however. He believes that with the incredible strength of the GPT-4 model, companies can now get started with just a handful of employees. The "Besties" agreed in last week's All-In podcast, saying that even something as complex as making a movie could be largely executed by AI.
As reported by Wired, "studies by Oxford and McKinsey had predicted that lower-wage, lower-skill jobs would be hardest hit, as indeed they have been throughout the entire history of automation going back to the steam-powered weaving loom.
The conventional wisdom is now that higher-paid jobs and creative jobs (including mathematicians, tax preparers, quants, writers, and web designers, to name a few) are the most highly exposed to automation (100 percent exposure for the professions just listed.)."
One CEO is already living in the future. In a video address to employees that leaked online, Clearlink CEO James Clarke threatened employees that they should be 30-50x more productive because of advances in AI.
"Some of our developers could be working for two different companies. We don't know. We hope that's not the case, but we don't know. Many content writers today are now exclusively using AI to write. I can do that in about 30 minutes of an eight-hour workday. So what do we need to do? Let's put out 30 to 50 times our normal production."
Fortune's Steve Mollman references Ethan Mollick, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton business school. He recently ran an experiment to see what AI tools could accomplish when given a business project and 30 minutes. It created the strategy, the messaging, the website, and even social media posts, including images.
According to the professor, the results were exceptional, and he said it would have taken him and his team several days to achieve the same level of performance. Indicating that the achievement was 'superhuman.'
Management in the Age of AI.
If work changes, management changes.
My favorite definition is that management is "getting work done through other people." If that's the case, how people do their job significantly impacts what management will be like.
When individual contributors are supercharged with AI capabilities, cutting out almost menial and laborsome tasks white-collar workers do today, the core task of a manager will likely pivot towards coordination and coaching.
Of course, AI will also play a significant role in how managers work, similarly supercharging them in streamlining tasks, predictive analytics, and real-time coaching.
Managers need help, and AI can provide it
This is important, because managers are overloaded. For many, even thought they'd like to do more, they often don't get to exercise management best practices as their own work fills up almost all of that working (and sometimes waking) hours.
Humu research shows that during and after the COVID pandemic managers have "TWICE the attrition risk compared to other employees and a 25% increase in burnout." According to research from ServiceNow, managers spend 40% of their week on email updates, requesting support services, filling out forms, updating spreadsheets, and following up type activities, something AI could prevent.
2030: a Day in the Life of an AI-driven Manager
What could an alternative, AI-driven management reality, look like? I asked ChatGPT. Here's what a day in a manager's life could look like just a few years into the future:
- The day might start with the manager reviewing performance reports generated by AI systems that monitor the team's work. The manager might use this information to identify areas where team members excel and areas where they need additional support or coaching.
- The manager might then virtually meet with human and machine team members to discuss progress on ongoing projects and identify any roadblocks or challenges. During the meeting, the manager might offer guidance and support to individual team members and work with AI systems to generate new ideas and solutions to problems.
- After the meeting, the manager might spend time coaching individual team members, providing feedback on their work, and helping them develop new skills. The manager might also use AI tools to assist with employee development, such as generating personalized learning plans based on each employee's strengths and weaknesses.
- Throughout the day, the manager might collaborate with other managers and departments to coordinate work across the organization, using AI systems to identify potential areas of synergy and opportunities for collaboration.
- At the end of the day, the manager might spend time reflecting on their performance, using AI-generated data to identify areas where her team could improve their leadership and management skills.
Will we still need managers?
Overall, this day in the life of a manager in 2030 shows that their tasks will likely involve a blend of human and machine capabilities. The manager is a coach, mentor, and coordinator, working closely with human and machine team members to achieve their goals.
For a second, I wondered if we still need managers or if everyone would become an AI-supercharged individual contributor. But, it's reasonable to assume that even with more AI involvement, teamwork and collaboration will still be necessary for achieving complex goals. Therefore, not everyone will become a solo superstar contributor, and managers will still be needed.
AI can handle many routine tasks but can't replicate human skills like creativity, intuition, and interpersonal skills essential for effective teamwork. This means that the manager's role in promoting communication, innovation, and collaboration will continue to be essential even as AI becomes more prevalent.
(In discussion with ChatGPT about the need for managers, however, it did point out that "AI as managers: If AI is capable of doing most of what human managers do, it's possible that AI systems could take on the role of managing human workers. This future would require a significant shift in how we think about management and the relationship between humans and machines." Slightly frightening.)
9 Ways in Which AI for Managers is the Future of Work (but today.)
No matter what the future of management looks like, even just a few years from now, managers need to tap into AI. There is no way that AI doesn't in some way take over part of our work, so it's better to get familiar now.
As Josh Bersin mentioned in a recent podcast, not knowing AI will be like not learning Excel when that started getting adopted.
The least managers should do starting to learn about AI. As the Wharton School for Business says: "You can become a catalyst for organizational change. Successful companies need to be willing to adapt to industry trends and disruptions. Armed with an understanding of what AI can do for businesses, you can inspire change in your workplace and suggest new ideas for how AI could be implemented."
The best way of learning is to start using the tools themselves. Furthermore, the promise of technology is always easier to see than to apply. CT Leong of Engagerocket rightly points out that getting team members involved early to understand and embrace AI is vital.
Below are nine ways AI is Transforming management today and in the near future.
The most obvious one is, of course, writing, the primary way in which most people have gotten to know ChatGPT and similar tools.
Managers can use AI tools to assist them in writing by using them to generate ideas, provide language suggestions, and improve the overall quality of their writing.
ChatGPT, Copy.AI, and even platforms like Notion allow managers to have quick conversations with the AI, for example, to ask for a second opinion on a message they're considering sending. It can then incorporate suggestions directly into the message, saving managers time.
Brainstorming, copy suggestions based on simple instructions, checking grammar and spelling, editing and reviewing copy, and drafting quick responses, can all be done with AI.
Tools to use:
2. Image Generation
By the number of searches by the general public, generating AI artwork is more popular than writing. This trend has not gone unnoticed by managers who often need to create presentation images. They have found that AI can greatly support them in creating these images.
One of the most significant benefits of using AI for image generation is its ease of use. All users need to do is describe what they want to see, and the AI will generate it for them. This makes the process of creating presentation images quick and effortless.
Tools to use:
- Dall-E (by OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT), also available on Bing
- Dream Studio (Stable Diffusion)
- Adobe Firefly
- Canva Image Generator
3. Transcribing Meetings
As my article on Meeting Overload shared, transcribing meetings by AI has gotten so easy it's a no-brainer for any manager. I've experienced multiple times in the past week receiving a terrifically detailed summary just one second after a meeting ended. This could have taken someone on the team hours to assemble, and now it's here in a flash.
Not only can these AIs take accurate meeting notes and summarize meetings quickly but allow you to refrain from joining meetings. Instead of joining meetings to make sure you stay in the loop, you can send your meeting AI to any online meeting. You'll receive a detailed summary and a second-by-second meeting recap, allowing you to skim and get updated.
Tools to use:
4. Practicing Conversations
One of the most complex parts of being a manager is communicating effectively.
Performance issues, terminations, team conflicts, and even salary negotiations are all difficult conversations managers need to have. Then there are more benign but equally essential conversations, like a good one-on-one or an interview.
With AI, managers can practice conversations before they have them. This allows the manager to improve communication skills and approach these situations more confidently and effectively.
In my last article, I quoted Donna Svei, who used ChatGPT to prepare a job interview, letting the AI play the candidate and, through this, sharpen her questions to ask. I believe we will see many more examples like this in the near future.
Tool to use: ChatGPT. And if you're still lying awake going over that conversation repeatedly, try the astutely named insomnobot3000.
5. Analyzing Data and Predictive Analytics
AI can do something we often hate doing: sifting through large volumes of data, identifying relevant trends and patterns, and providing us with insights.
But it can go further. Predictive analytics allows managers to make data-driven decisions based on AI models that predict future outcomes. We have a lot of data about our team members. But we often need more time to pull all the numbers together and turn those numbers into insights and insights into action.
AI will allow us to analyze data and make predictions about things that matter to us, for example, the likelihood of resignations or which employees need more mentoring.
Depending on their role, managers can use AI to analyze historical sales data, customer behavior, supply chain management, risk management, and talent acquisition. This is to make more accurate predictions and informed decisions about resource allocation and growth opportunities.
- Simplifying data analysis: By consolidating all data in a single platform, users can obtain a comprehensive view of their data, making it simpler to comprehend and manage.
- Anticipating outcomes: Through Predictive AI, users can create forecasts and analyze different scenarios to identify the one with the highest likelihood of success.
Tools to use:
6. Engaging Employees
ChatGPT can help hybrid and remote managers engage their teams by generating efficient and practical ideas. Engaged employees are more productive and stay with us longer, so finding ways to engage them is crucial, even when we work from different places on different days.
Generating ideas to engage teams can be challenging, but ChatGPT can provide lists of ideas and detailed instructions. For example, it can suggest team-building activities. You can continue the conversation with ChatGPT to refine the ideas based on your specific needs, such as budget limitations.
Using AI to generate ideas and action plans is an effective way for managers to improve employee engagement and boost productivity. From no idea to a clear action plan, ChatGPT can help you engage your team with fun activities, such as movie nights or other exciting ideas.
Tools to use: ChatGPT.
7. Organizing Your Priorities and Workload
Besides helping you work less, a potentially powerful application of AI is understanding and predicting what you and the team should be working on.
AI can understand your teams' priorities toward the organization's largest goals. It can use this to help set what needs to get done and when, for example, with tools like Small Steps. But also help in resource demand forecasting, understanding whether you have enough of the right people to do the job.
This forecasting will become even more important when we move towards a more distributed talent approach, where core team members, freelancers, marketplace (Fiverr, Upwork) resources, and AI services all contribute to getting the work done.
Tools like Wobot go a step further, analyzing what your team is working on, how it relates to team and company OKRs, and suggesting better objectives for the next measurement cycle. Then there are tools like FlexOS Lexi Daily, which helps check in on what team members are up to, and spot early signs of where they need help to align their work with key priorities.
Tools to use:
8. Getting Coached
From managing teams to making critical decisions, a manager's responsibilities are often challenging and require constant learning and improvement. However, only some have the resources or access to a professional coach to help them develop these skills. AI tools can provide an alternative solution.
CT Leong shared a few practical examples of how ChatGPT can provide coaching. In another realm, the well-being app Bloom recently added an AI feature allowing users to share their challenges and get personalized, AI-generated advice.
9. Have a Virtual Assistant
AI-powered automation can streamline workflows and increase efficiency.
It can act as an assistant or even a Chief of Staff. As Xembly, a startup in this space, says:
"Tasks like scheduling meetings, taking notes, and managing one's own working hours may seem trivial, but they collectively drain a worker's capacity to focus on the important conversations and workstreams needed to excel in their jobs."
To build a virtual assistant, developers would train the AI on a large dataset, allowing it to recognize and understand the context of words and phrases and a manager's individual preferences. The need for this amount of data explains why Microsoft Copilot, which can tap into every message, email, and document you've ever written, has so much potential.
The AI then uses this information to respond appropriately to user commands and queries. The AI virtual assistant or COS can help managers communicate with their team members, provide timely reminders, and do many other tasks listed above and below.
- Microsoft Copilot
- Google Copilot alternative (to be launched)
What does it all mean for us humans?
Let's conclude this article to ensure we catch the key message for us as human beings. Yes, AI can take over much of our work, but let's focus on it taking over the menial work we prefer not to do.
Research shows that purposeful work improves job satisfaction, well-being, sociability, health, and happiness - all critical for retaining employees. The need for purpose means managers and companies have a great incentive to support their team members to tap into these new tools and reduce the amount of menial work people do.
This starts with trying out the tools ourselves, and the above should provide a helpful guide to get going.
Every week, I scan the news for must-know stories about the employee-centric, happier, distributed, and AI-driven future of work.