March 29, 2023
See this piece as it was originally published here.
When ChatGPT took the internet by storm a few months ago, the first “worrying” headlines were about students cheating on their homework. While ChatGPT wasn’t the first impressively powerful language model, it was the first publicly accessible one good enough to write a school essay. And when it dropped, AI-written papers followed almost instantaneously! That’s because young people are adaptable and quick to adopt new technology — especially when they make work easier. And ChatGPT makes writing a LOT easier.
Forward-looking teachers have started to adapt, too. They’re recognizing that the way we work — and just about everything else — will be changed by this new wave of AI. Using AI will be a fundamental skill of the (near) future, and using AI to help write a paper instead of writing it from scratch will be no more “cheating” than typing instead of writing in cursive. In my piece on Humans at the Helm, I write about how human collaboration with AI is the professional skillset of the future. Similarly, a professor at Wharton went viral with their policy *expecting* students to use AI for the class. That kind of policy is smart not only because it recognizes that it will be hard to stop students from using AI, but because using AI is already becoming a critical skill for productive work.
Meanwhile, while breakthrough AI tech has already spawned tons of very useful professional products, in professional settings most teams have been much slower to adopt AI. From draft writing and meeting transcription to spreadsheet magic and coding assistance, AI tools are springing up that can dramatically improve efficiency — and will be continuing to improve, fast. While it can be legitimately daunting to identify the truly useful products from the slew of hackers trying to go viral, I believe the relatively slow rate of adoption in the workplace is mostly because we’re older, more set in our ways, and less adaptable. Plus maybe a little intimidated.
Failure to embrace these new capabilities is doing a disservice to yourself and your team. Not only are they useful for many tasks, developing comfort and proficiency with AI tools will be fundamental to being a productive worker. There’s always a learning curve and switching cost to new tools. Because of that, at Waymark we typically wouldn’t adopt a tool unless there is a significant improvement relative to what we’re doing today. While some of the AI tools out there definitely do hit that mark, we actually hold a lower standard for them because of the personal and professional development value of learning and understanding AI tools. As long as the cost and benefit are about neutral, it’s worth it.
So what can you do? If you’re looking to upgrade your own skills, just spend an hour trying things out! There are a lot of generative AI “maps” with relevant products by use case (here’s the most recent one I’ve seen) plus many good newsletters for updates (Product Hunt’s newsletter isn’t AI-specific but has lots of AI stuff lately and is always high quality).
If you manage a team, setting an expectation of trying out AI products (like the Wharton professor’s policy) and creating space to share findings is a great place to start. You can also knight an evangelist to try out new products and share the ones that work. That can be helpful since there legitimately are tons of new products all the time and they can have a bit of a learning curve.
If you find any great products or strategies that work for your team, we’d love to hear about them! Give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org :).