AI is coming whether we like it or not. Big Tech needs something new to sell, so most software will be AI-enabled within 6-12 months – meaning we need to get ready.
I’ve jotted down 7 ways AI will change the way you work, some immediately, some in the next few years. My hope is that it will inspire you to prepare – not just for the tech implications, but for how humans work at scale with machines.
This list is just the start. As you uncover more implications, share them with your peers - and with us! Let’s dive in.
7 ways AI will completely change the way you work
1. Your go-to person will be a machine
You have a new type of coworker: a highly creative, analytical worker who can flex from assistant-like drudge work to consultant-style business advice.
And you should think of them that way. After using AI for a while, 60% of workers using AI see it as a coworker, not a job threat. Instead of leaning into the anxiety about AI, think of it as a gift: you just got extra headcount on your team, and for now it’s free. It won’t be for long.
Start thinking right away about how to deploy AI as fast as possible. With the right prompting, AI can fill an astounding number of roles – from intern to board member.
The big question we’ll all have to grapple with: What’s a human’s job vs. a machine’s job? Right now, the answer might be “AI writes the first draft, humans write the second” but that’s going to evolve quickly, and you need to be thinking about it with fresh eyes every few months.
In the meantime? Add AI into your team in some way and as soon as you can. Pick a task, workflow, or project and start to experience the “human-machine” combo.
2. Interface friction will not be tolerated.
Technology makes us more impatient. It takes 25 seconds for us to become impatient when a traffic light doesn’t change, and only 16 seconds when a webpage doesn’t load.
We’re about to get very, very impatient with the current method of getting an answer (read: search).
Overnight, AI-powered chat has compressed the time and friction from question to answer. No more typing a question into Google, scrolling the results, and clicking into a few articles to find the answer (or not). Chat cuts out the middleman and delivers not just results, but a recommendation immediately.
This means profound implications for every business who currently relies on search or support to solve customer or employee problems.
Employees and customers will quickly become “AI-native” expecting zero friction from question to answer.. Businesses will need to get their data in order – and get an LLM trained on it – to get answers faster. And expect to reprioritize and rebuild your product roadmap over the next 12 months.
In the short term, audit your workflows and user journeys for ways AI can streamline and remove friction… both for employees and customers.
3. A new class of workers will emerge: the AI class
Generative AI makes people 66% better at their jobs. It makes them more productive: Support agents can handle 14% more customer inquiries an hour, professionals can write 59% more documents an hour, and programmers can code 126% more projects a week.
But it’s not just productivity. Quality and creativity goes up with AI too. ChatGPT scores 99% better than the human population in how many ideas it can produce and the quality of those ideas.
And AI-native employees will be entering the workforce soon. 89% of college students have used ChatGPT to help with a homework assignment. Much like those of us who grew up with the internet and social media, using AI for work will be second nature to them.
In five years, the working population will be divided into two classes: the (new) AI class and the (current) knowledge class.
For the AI class (aka, those of us who embrace AI now):
- Quality and speed of work improves
- Spends more time making decisions and less time prepping for them
- Embraces/acknowledges where they’ve used AI to make progress
- Fast track to promotions and raises
- Less stressed and happier at work – less drudge work
For the knowledge class (aka, those of us who resist learning AI):
- Quality and speed of work stagnates
- Still spends lots of time on drudge work (analysis, cleaning data, writing first drafts, etc.)
- Nervous or intimidated by AI
- Passed for promotions or raises
- Stressed about AI or other employees taking their job
What should you do as a leader? Don’t wait for L&D – start training your people on AI now. The next war for talent will be for the AI class.
By the way, you will have to pay more for these people. And as harsh as this sounds, those salaries will get funded by eliminating the bottom 10% of some teams, either because work is no longer needed or because they resist AI and are poor performers.
4. Workforce mental health is about to get a lot worse
The last 40 years has been a bull market for knowledge workers.
But it’s knowledge workers – not service workers and tradespeople – who are ripe for disruption by AI. And those 70 million knowledge workers are poised for an unprecedented mental health crisis when their job-related self-worth is threatened.
83% of Americans say that having a good career is important to their self-esteem, and 70% of U.S. college grads say they get their sense of identity from their job. When we ascribe our value to work, what happens when AI is doing most of the work?
One thing’s for sure: our HR teams and existing mental health support structures are not prepared for this. We’ll start to see some companies differentiating on stress-related benefits, and others claiming, “We’ll never replace a human job with an AI.” (We’ll see about that).
If you’re a leader, the best thing you can do is to work on your empathy skills. Employees will be looking to leaders who can speak with real empathy about the stress and anxiety they’re feeling.
5. It’s time to admit AI will soon be better at decision-making
The idea of AI making life-altering decisions – like who gets a kidney or when end-of-life care should start – feels wrong to most of us. We assume some human element is necessary to make the right call.
But humans – even executives – aren’t very good at making decisions. Overconfident CEOs tend to outweigh the benefits of a decision versus the risk. CEOs who are feeling anxious about their job are less likely to take risks, and more likely to surround themselves with “yes men” who confirm their biases.
AI, on the other hand, is:
- Highly logical and data-driven
- Trained on the internet’s information/data
- Able to combine micro data (sales performance) with macro data (economic trends)
- Able to move across domains or disciplines seamlessly, seeing patterns
- Able to become an expert on any subject
- Able to create multiple forecasts and scenarios – and analyze from different angles
- Non-emotional – there’s no reason (or motivation) to be optimistic
- Unaffected by the toll of tough decisions
AI can add 10x more rigor to our decision-making, and leaders who don’t use it will fall behind quickly. Compare it to an aspiring manager who refuses to delegate their work.
As a leader, use this opportunity to develop your judgment skills (did AI make the right call?) and shed your ego (it’s okay if it did). Your quality of life will increase when you don’t have to shoulder the burden of decision-making by yourself. And you might get a better night’s sleep.
And for your employees? Start asking “what does AI think?” We need to start building this muscle.
6. We will see an explosion of entrepreneurship
A Wharton paper showed that ChatGPT-4 (manned by one human) can generate 36 ideas in the time it takes a human to generate one. Humans working in groups are even slower.
And AI does idea generation much more cheaply. Assuming a cost of $500 per hour of human effort + $20 for the API fee, GPT-4 can generate an idea for $0.65. Time to fire your agency.
AI will unleash a wealth of great ideas, and it will give individuals the skills to execute them regardless of what they’re good at. Engineers become designers, writers, and strategists. Writers become data analysts and coders.
This means we’re entering a golden age of creativity and entrepreneurship. People will leave corporate America, where their jobs are at risk anyway, to start companies. Companies with $1 million revenue per employee will become attainable, then commonplace.
As a leader, this means you should expect a faster pace of innovation from yourself, your team and organization.
7. As leaders, you better up your game
If you’re an executive thinking, “Well, I’m safe because my work is complex,” think again. AI can’t do most of your job right now, but it will be able to soon.
Before our most recent board meeting, we asked four AI chatbots to give us feedback on our board deck. Poe, ChatGPT-4, and Bard gave us obvious, unhelpful feedback, but Claude was almost as good as our human board. It understood the macroeconomic environment, was appropriately ambitious, and quickly got to third-level implications and big picture opportunities.
This means it’s time to level up. Spend less time preparing to make decisions, and more time making them and moving fast to execute. Stop relying on spin to justify your decisions – employees can vet your ideas themselves now.
And get ready to get on a plane to see your people. In an age of AI, the most important thing you bring to the table is your humanity. AI can’t compete with your ability to comfort, motivate, amuse, or connect. Practice those skills – they’ll be indispensable in the next generation of leaders.
I go deeper on how every leader should be thinking about AI in Generative AI Business Strategy. Sign up and I’ll see you in class.