All the discussion around ChatGPT is giving AI a bit of a moment, and some scaremongers would have you think that we’re all soon to be replaced by robots. Looking at this from my own perspective, I thought it would be interesting to cover how AI is being used within the workplace, and why I’m confident it’s not going to replace me and my human approach.
What IS AI and why is it such a hot topic?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is machine learning, which mimics the way humans use information, experience, and reason to make decisions, and to problem solve. It was originally theorised early in the 20th Century, and started to become reality (albeit on a very small but costly scale) in the 50’s. The lag in computing ability held progress back until the late 90’s when AI leapt forward, with the first computer algorithm winning a chess game against the world champion and grand master Gary Kasparov. Checkmate.
So, if AI has been around and progressing for all this time, why is it becoming so scary?
As AI is being integrated more and more into the workplace, the underlying fear seems to be that it will reduce our human connection and creativity. This has been fuelled by the launch of ChatGPT at the end of last year – a piece of AI software that ‘interacts in a conversational way’. This feels like it’s the next level of data and machine learning, moving from something powerful that can do simple, monotonous tasks quicker, into something far more, well, ‘human’.
The fear is, if you don’t know whether you’re talking to (or reading something written by) a human or a robot, how can you trust it? And no, before you ask, I haven’t gone down the route of having AI create this article as an ‘aha moment’ although many people have, just to prove a point!
More specifically in the workplace, the concern amongst my clients is “If leaders are all still struggling to get communication right, how is AI going to manage if it’s using learnt behaviour?”.
And this is crux of the issue to me. Being human and communicating well is something far more nuanced than AI is able to replicate, and neither should we try to.
I do believe data and efficiency absolutely has its place. AI can take over mundane and repetitive tasks, freeing up employees to focus on more meaningful and creative work. This in turn leads to better collaboration and teamwork, as employees work together to solve complex problems that require human expertise. This is where creativity, individualism and lived experience bring teams together for greatness.
Trust is one of the most vital (and often overlooked) part of a high performing team. When people have trust in themselves and their own behaviours, trust in their colleagues, and trust in their leader and their ability, they can go above and beyond.
The bottom line is, we don’t quite trust AI.
Does AI really improve efficiency in the workplace?
In an increasingly performance driven environment, there are a number of approaches to improving efficiency. One is the route chosen by the likes of Amazon, who has apparently patented a wristband that tracks the hand movements of warehouse workers and uses vibrations to nudge them into being more efficient.
Now this conjures up the untrustworthy image of dystopian Sci-Fi, where robots watch our every move and force us into action.
On the other hand, many forward-thinking teams are refocusing on their leadership and culture within the workplace, and the move to more ‘human leadership’ in a bid to driving efficiency.
This is the focus on soft skills including empathy, connection, and transparency amongst leaders, as they are needed to show more emotional intelligence and self-awareness. This develops a psychologically safe environment for their employees, allowing space for them to grow together as a team with the result being better performance and increased efficiency. Without the need for the physical push.
The challenge with this, is it takes time. And according to recent research, although 90% of HR Leaders believe a human approach is crucial to company success, only 29% of employees recognise their employer as a ‘human leader’.
There’s still a lot of work to do here to bridge that gap. AI and personalised learning can be used in thousands of ways to deliver technical learning, introduce wonderful skills to people, and help organisations analyse and understand the data around this. But it can’t help leaders to open up and understand their own behaviour and the nuances of being human. My specialism lies in giving people the tools they need to do this and bring about the ‘lightbulb moments’ of self-awareness by working with them in my own creative and personal way. I’m often described as ‘doing the serious stuff with humour’, and whilst it’s not out of the question for the future, I don’t see AI replacing that just yet.