AI is Disrupting Your Industry, and What You Can Do About It

Measure its Success: Companies are strongly incentivized to follow the AI hype and apply it to all their products. But doing so without tracking quantitative measures of improvement is a recipe for wasted time and money. Once you start experimenting with AI and seeing what it can do, measure the improvements it is giving you.

Can you explain how AI is disrupting your industry? Is this disruption hurting or helping your bottom line?

I believe AI will dramatically change the way tech professionals do their work and I believe it will do so in a positively disruptive way. We will need to do less and less of the manually repeatable tasks like writing code and designing presentations. By making us more efficient with those tasks, AI will free us to invest more time into building relationships — into activities like stakeholder management and communication that are responsible for driving business success.

Which specific AI technology has had the most significant impact on your industry?

Chat GPT has had the most significant impact. Before tools like Chat GPT were invented, it would take me hours to analyze data, and days if not weeks to write code for a website. After Chat GPT was invented it could do all of those tasks within minutes. Seeing it do that — and do it nearly completely correctly — made me take real pause and consider how this technology might change a lot of what my industry does on an unforeseen scale.

Can you share a pivotal moment when you recognized the profound impact AI would have on your sector?

I used to make all my conference talks manually. My usual approach involved:

  1. Thinking about the main idea
  2. Writing out an outline of points
  3. Creating slides to support all the major narrative beats

For a recent conference talk I thought, “Why not use Chat GPT to do at least part of it?”

Chat GPT ended up being able to do every step. It could brainstorm ideas, draft outlines, and even design entire slides much faster than I ever could. I was shocked. The outputs weren’t perfect, but they were fast. And better prompts from me helped the output get closer and closer to what I needed. I am very curious to see how much more effective Chat GPT will become in the coming months and years.

How are you preparing your workforce for the integration of AI, and what skills do you believe will be most valuable in an AI-enhanced future?

Continuous learning is the best approach to keep up with the rapid development of AI. I conduct workshops to help tech teams learn how to use AI not as their eventual replacements, but as effective assistants for communication and presentation. My belief is that AI is not (yet) at a stage where it can operate without human intervention:

  • Tools like Chat GPT need to be told what to do, so we need to know how to ask the right questions.
  • Tools like Chat GPT also make mistakes, so we need to know how to identify those mistakes and correct them.

Our expertise and domain knowledge as technical professionals therefore remain invaluable in an AI-enhanced future.

What are the biggest challenges in upskilling your workforce for an AI-centric future?

One of the biggest challenges I see in AI upskilling is mindset. In tech, we often like to think of technology as transactional — we give an input and it provides an output. However, what I teach in my trainings is that conversational AI tools like Chat GPT are most effective when we think of them as interpersonal. Chat GPT has the potential to not just give us code and design our websites, but to act as people.

  • If you prompt Chat GPT to pretend to be someone in a certain role with a certain personality and background, it can respond to you as that person.
  • It can provide much more “human” outputs, and even help prepare you for conversations with those people in real life.

The full potential of tools like Chat GPT is therefore truly unlocked when we view it as not just an enhancement to our technological skillset, but also an enhancement to our interpersonal one.

What ethical considerations does AI introduce into your industry, and how are you tackling these concerns?

I have deep concerns about AI and its relationship to originality. AI can create entire slide decks for presentations and even scripts for everything the presenter has to say — on any topic. It’s a powerful tool for those who want to make their workflow faster, but a cheap shortcut for those still in the process of learning how to communicate effectively. I hope to tackle this concern through my corporate trainings.

When I teach the use of AI for communication and presentation, I advocate for its role as a brainstorming assistant, but not as a replacement for critical thinking. It is our responsibility to lead AI and use it to accelerate our work, not to let it lead us and tell us what we should do.

What are your “Five Things You Need To Do, If AI Is Disrupting Your Industry”?

1. Embrace its Specificity

AI tools like Chat GPT do one very specific thing. They make tasks faster. They do not build human relationships faster. That’s what we’re here for. Take comfort in knowing AI remains limited in its scope and cannot replace you and the trusted expertise you provide.

2. Measure its Success

Companies are strongly incentivized to follow the AI hype and apply it to all their products. But doing so without tracking quantitative measures of improvement is a recipe for wasted time and money. Once you start experimenting with AI and seeing what it can do, measure the improvements it is giving you:

  • How long did it take you to execute a task before AI?
  • How long does it take you after AI?

Do email marketing campaigns generated using AI improve the open rate? Or decrease it (because people recognize the content as AI-generated?) Rather than taking a single-minded focus to make everything with AI, use metrics to determine what works and let go of what doesn’t.

3. Identify what is Achievable

Once you start (hopefully) seeing positive, quantitative results from increased AI implementation, begin to chart out short and long-term plans for how AI can continue enhancing your work. In a few weeks, let’s say it improves your ability to write personalized emails by drafting initial templates. In a few months, perhaps it could even help with drafting blog posts to increase traffic to your website.

4. Augment Your Relevance

AI is an enhancement to our skillset, not a replacement for it. Once you’ve identified what AI tasks are most useful and achievable, identify what areas still require human expertise to correct and still require human creativity to add a differentiating touch. Blogs drafted with AI, for example, can be overly generic and consequently off-putting unless we add a touch of our domain knowledge and unique tone of voice.

5. Invest in Time-Bound Learning

AI continues to develop at a rapid pace. Setting up learning milestones every month or every quarter in the form of online courses, workshops, or self-driven projects can ensure you stay up-to-date with the latest trends that benefit your work.

What are the most common misconceptions about AI within your industry, and how do you address them?

AI can speed up tasks, but it cannot build relationships. It understands generally and statistically what a CEO in an email marketing company needs to see in a data presentation. But it does not know what your CEO needs to know. You would know that as an employee in the company from your experience and subject matter expertise.

As AI continues to automate more manually repeatable tasks, it will empower us to spend more time focusing on the people-driven tasks that drive business value: speaking to the business and understanding the highest priority questions, discerning the difference between what the business asks for vs what it actually needs, and delivering clear recommendations that the business trusts because it swiftly addresses biases, concerns, and objections we know they have.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

What keeps me up at night is what a tidal shift AI represents and how a lot of the world remains oblivious to the significance of the sea change happening under their feet. Outside of those who work with data and AI like me on a routine basis, an AI tool like Chat GPT is just another new technology, another fancy app. But it is so much more. Its ability to do much of the same work humans can do — but significantly faster — will fundamentally change the way work is done across industries.

This blog contains excerpts from an interview conducted by Cynthia Corsetti. The full article was originally published in Authority Magazine on March 23, 2024

Check out these related resources on how to use AI to enhance business communication:

  1. Article on how to use AI to automate repetitive tasks, communicate with empathy, and complement human expertise
  2. Video on how to use AI like ChatGPT to create customized technical presentations within minutes

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