Generative AI applications have landed quickly and with force in the workplace.
Generative AI apps and platforms—which produce intelligent written content and often stunning visual images using limited human input—are accessible to anyone. Some leaders are unaware of how generative AI is already used in their organizations to accomplish daily tasks more effectively and efficiently.
While this experimentation is laudable, it also carries risk. No one—not leaders, engineers, or entrepreneurs—fully understands the technology’s potential. However, early reactions have mimicked what’s always been said about AI: It’s coming for our jobs.
In the not-so-distant future, workforce tools and processes will seamlessly integrate with some form of generative AI. Word processors will act like editors, previously complex photo edits will be performed by anyone, and generative AI will revolutionize a bevy of other resources. But getting to this future of seamless cohabitation with generative AI won’t be easy.
We’ve already seen new jobs, like prompt engineering, created as a result of generative AI. Still, many workers are focused on the jobs it will eliminate. They shouldn’t be. In the future, we’ll all need to learn how to interact with generative AI based on our roles — just like we all learned the best way to use Google to get information quickly. For example, lawyers must know about the limitations or knowledge gaps a generative AI app might present in case law. We’ll definitely see use cases for generative AI emerge in many of our roles but don’t expect entire industries or fields to disappear as a result. If you aren’t thinking about augmenting your workflow with AI-powered tools, you will fall behind in the future.
Generative AI can create risk. Any hot new technology has this potential, but we’ve already seen examples of the misuse of generative AI. Even some of the largest companies, like Samsung, have ordered employees to cut back or stop using these applications after data leaks. If you’re a leader, yesterday is the time to start asking questions about how and where this technology is used in your organization. Like Samsung, you could expose the data of countless customers, vendors, and partners without knowing it.
If you believe the only way to protect is to ban the generative AI tools, you’ll be outpaced by other companies in the future. Challenge yourself to mitigate risk and open up opportunities now.
It’s common to hear certain jobs described as the “glue” that holds an organization together. It could be the law clerk who converts Post-It notes into digital timesheets or an associate known for taking razor-sharp notes during quick meetings. These jobs may seem indispensable, but generative AI will quickly fill aspects of these roles. There’s significant opportunity for reskilling and continuing education for those who may find themselves out of the job, and it’s up to those in power to proactively put those supports in place. Companies who think deeply about this transition will better maximize their exit velocity. Those that leave it for later will likely be left behind.
Like it or not, generative AI is a game-changer. As with other disruptive technologies, unlocking the potential of generative AI in the workplace won’t be straightforward. If you embrace the potential of generative AI and work through the risks and challenges it brings, you’ll create an environment where there are greater possibilities, velocity, and advancement.
Jonathan Watson is the chief technology officer at Clio.