The panic is subsiding (somewhat). ChatGPT is not going to take over the world. Yes, like new technologies before it, it’s going to disrupt jobs. But the AI challenge from chatbots like ChatGPT can also streamline work processes, aggregate data more easily, and jumpstart work-related projects and activities. Rather than being a challenge, AI can offer professionals significant opportunities.
What the AI Challenge Isn’t
For starters, ChatGPT did not and could not write this article. It’s a natural language conversational model (emphasis on the word “model”). What it outputs is based on gobs of digital data. Sure, I asked it a lot of questions in preparation for writing this article, but it became clear that there was little, if any complex inference or critical thinking behind it. While it can mimic the writing style of a well-known author, for example, or assume a “friendly,” “witty,” or “casual” tone, it doesn’t come across as authentic.
Fears Are Not Totally Unwarranted
AI tools like ChatGPT have received many mixed reactions since their appearance. While studies suggest these tools can help individuals complete tasks with greater efficiency and quality, others warn that artificial intelligence is “replacing the white-collar workers.”
The truth is, many repetitive or technical jobs will be influenced and even replaced by AI technologies. However, the economy has been adjusting to these kinds of disruptions for decades.
Neither AI nor ChatGPT is the first technology to disrupt the traditional way of things, and they certainly won’t be the last. Progress will happen regardless of whether we want it or not. So the question is not “can we” adapt, it’s “how do we” adapt and even benefit from the AI challenge? If we adopt a growth mindset, we’re going to be much better prepared to meet the challenge head-on.
Discovering Applications and Advantages
Shannon Ahern, a high school math and science teacher, has found a new way to use ChatGPT to her advantage. She uses it to generate lesson plans, create exercise worksheets, and come up with quiz questions, among other things.
Ahern initially feared AI would make her job as a teacher irrelevant. But, after learning how to take advantage of it, she realized that it has significantly reduced her workload, cut down on paperwork, and enabled her to concentrate more on creative lesson planning.
By automating tasks and taking over administrative work that would otherwise require a significant amount of her time to complete, ChatGPT has proven to be a great tool to enhance productivity and free up her time to focus on her individual students’ needs and how to further develop her curriculum.
Potentially, experiences like Ahern’s could make conversational AI the computerized assistants we’ve always wanted but couldn’t afford — our own JARVISES. And of course, ChatGPT is not limited to education. Any profession involving repetitive or data-intensive work will be able to offload a perhaps significant percentage of “busy work” to the technology. In looking at some of my own methodologies, I realize that the AI could help create a plan and a schedule to stay in touch with my professional network or help me draft LinkedIn recommendations for colleagues I want to support and acknowledge.
The AI Revolution Will Be Supervised
Artificial intelligence is still relatively new, and as we navigate through this uncharted territory, it is natural to wonder whether we are overreacting in both directions. Some hail AI as a panacea for all our problems, while others warn that it is a dangerous tool that will soon replace human jobs. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.
While AI can excel at logic-based tasks, it falls short at creative work. So the key to successfully navigating the AI challenge will be learning to supervise it. By allowing AI to do the heavy lifting, we will hopefully be able to free up humans to focus on tasks that require creativity, nuanced thinking, speculation, iterative discovery, and emotional intelligence. Rather than seeing AI as a threat to jobs, we can view it as a tool that can augment human capabilities.
Once managers understand the parameters of AI, we’ll find a middle ground where humans and AI will work together in some sort of collaboration. This will involve identifying tasks that can be automated while also recognizing the unique skills that humans bring to the table. The AI revolution (and I hope I’m not being overly optimistic) will be productive and effective if humans can successfully step up to guide the technology.
(And, for the record, if we don’t, then we’ll probably fall into a variation of what we’ve experienced over the last decade with the rise of social media and the divisive effects it has had on our culture, along with potentially dangerous cybercrime.)
ChatGPT Suggestions For Mid-Career Professionals and the AI Challenge
By mid-career, you have already learned and refined your skills and understand how to drive results. Your critical thinking skills can go beyond data analysis to draw innovative and unexpected conclusions. You also know how to work effectively with people, encourage collaboration within teams, and hopefully apply the intuitive, empathetic, and emotional intelligence skills that enable effective leadership.
By integrating AI models like ChatGPT into your repertoire, you can grow the effective amplitude of your work by building content, running what-if scenarios, and otherwise letting the AI create more useable building blocks for the work you are already doing.
This will allow you to, essentially, jump into the real work without having to do the preliminaries.
Imagine you’re giving an important presentation to a new client. In the past, you would create an outline for your presentation and then ask your team to pull the research, source the graphics for the slides, and then create a draft of the deck for you to review. You’d put the finishing touches on it, they’d polish it up, and you’d show up at your client’s office with the deck loaded on your laptop and ready to go.
You see where I’m going… Today and tomorrow, you’ll be able to assign much of that work to the AI (including creating the graphics from scratch using generative image AI like Midjourney). Instead of supporting you by doing these tasks, your team will now be freed up to do their own more critical-thinking work to, say, engage with more clients or ideate new ways of delivering your services.
Below, I outline several suggestions on how you can use AI tools to level up your work and remain competitive.
Start at the Source: Just Ask ChatGPT
I asked ChatGPT how professionals in various jobs and industries could benefit from using it. Surprisingly, each answer emphasized that while ChatGPT recognizes its usefulness, it is also aware of its limitations.
The old saying “garbage in, garbage out” began with computer programming. The quality of the questions asked will determine the quality of the results generated. The key is in asking well-formulated queries. Coming up with the right question(s) not only helps you better understand your problem but can also help you think more critically about your work.
Use the AI as a sandbox. Just jump in and ask it questions about what you’re trying to do. Get familiar with the way it responds. Ask questions in different ways. Don’t be afraid to go into excruciating detail (it won’t mind if your sentences are awkward or convoluted).
One trick I learned recently is to ask it “Do you understand?” at the end of each query. It will respond by summarizing what you just asked for. You can then lead the conversation to another level by asking it to take the answers or information it has just given you and run a more specific analysis, or take the information in a new direction.
Could the AI Challenge Your Morning Routine?
If you’re a productivity nerd (or even if you’re not) you may have gotten sucked down the morning routine rabbit hole, attempting to find the most productive way to start your day.
Along with either checking or not checking your Inbox (depending on your philosophy), consider running some of your daily tasks through ChatGPT. Describe what you want to accomplish during the day. You might be surprised at how supportive the AI’s recommendations will be, and how it schedules what it thinks are more mentally strenuous tasks first. And while you might feel like you could have figured this out on your own, having the AI take the first pass at your schedule gives you something to react to, refine, and more fully customize.
Streamline Content Creation
Similarly, the AI can help alleviate some of the initial decisions and time allocation around your content creation. Whether you are staying up to speed with internal communications, writing proposals or presentations for external use, or capturing ideas for the future, the AI can support you.
Imagine working with the AI to develop templates for standard operating procedures, emails, memos, or other frequently-used communications. Ask it to imagine all the various uses of a particular template and it may suggest applications you didn’t think of – or simply forgot about (hey, you’re a busy person and you’ve got a lot on your mind…).
If you’re staring at any sort of a “blank page,” (particularly at the end of the day when you’re feeling tapped out) the AI can assist you in brainstorming ideas, generating structured outlines with a clear framework, and even creating multiple versions of content, including different lengths, styles, and applications that you can use to target specific audiences on specific platforms.
Imagine doing this at the end of the day in order to prepare ideas for the following day. You could leave your workspace mulling on these ideas and allowing your intuitive mind to work on them while you sleep, rest, and regenerate so that your process is actually clearer tomorrow.
Make It Your Management Assistant
ChatGPT can also help you manage your time, resources, and operations more effectively. If you input specific criteria and information (including spreadsheet data), it can:
- Make preliminary recommendations on resource allocation, such as budget allocation or project timelines.
- Generate summaries and reports based on your progress and help you identify areas of improvement and develop strategies to optimize your performance.
- Analyze report data and draft preliminary recommendations based on input criteria to get actionable insights and advice for better outcomes.
Be Aware of ChatGPT’s Caveats
While ChatGPT uses advanced learning capabilities to generate recommendations, ideas, and insights, it’s important to remember that it is ultimately a tool that is only as reliable as the data and inputs provided by the user.
It can’t replace human expertise and intuition. So, as discussed throughout this article, it has to be kept on a fairly short and specific leash – and its output should be verified and validated. It’s an adjunct utility to fill in the blanks and add variables rather than a primary and authoritative resource.
The software also has the potential for manipulation and misuse. For now, it apparently has some built-in safeguards against potentially illegal or unethical behavior. But as we know, software can always be hacked.
And it is encouraging to read the open letter from many tech leaders advocating for a pause in the ongoing productization of AI so that we can get a handle on preventing abuse and unintended consequences.
The AI Challenge: Better To Be On the Bus
ChatGPT is emerging as a potentially valuable tool to help us enhance our professional and personal efficiency and performance. It can accelerate the aggregation and parsing of data and information to make it more accessible and actionable. It can provide users with rough input, inspiration, and variations on which to base opinions, reports, strategies, and other critical thinking activities. So don’t sit on the sidelines while all of this experimentation is going on. You owe it to yourself (and your growth mindset) to be an active participant.
While conversational AI extends the user’s reach to gather and leverage ideas, information, and data in more actionable ways, it’s crucial to acknowledge that it cannot replace critical thinking or creative ideation.
Overuse and over-reliance on ChatGPT could lead to mediocre results and wasted time going down an AI rabbit hole. So use it mindfully and responsibly.
Start by setting limited goals and gradually add the tool to your repertoire. Keep in mind: You’ll Always Be Better Than the Bot!