We’re hearing about generative AI and AI from all sides these days, and that it will impact jobs in a highly negative way. It’s important to remember that AI may reduce or roles or eliminate some jobs, it also will redefine and reshape many others. Professionals and managers seeking to advance in the months and years should understand AI’s potential to enhance their capabilities.
Consider the fact that demand keeps rising for cognitive skills with today’s business environment — something which can be substantially amplified by AI, but not replaced. Authors of the recent future jobs report out of the World Economic Forum estimate that 44% of workers’ skills will be disrupted in the next five years, and cognitive skills are reported to be growing in importance most quickly, “reflecting the increasing importance of complex problem-solving in the workplace.” In fact, creative thinking is growing in importance slightly more rapidly than analytical thinking.”
Think back a couple of decades, when the internet became essential to careers, not only for identifying new opportunities, but also for effectively doing one’s job, be it biologist or guitar maker. Now, the situation is the same with AI today.
“Tomorrow’s workforce will leverage AI, the way today’s workforce leverages technologies like the internet that was once futuristic and potentially intimidating,” says Keith Farley, director of innovation at Aflac. “Over time business has moved from manual solutions like the abacus to adding machines to advanced calculators.”
For senior-level managers and professionals, “you can easily and significantly improve productivity by leveraging AI tools,” says Martin Markiewicz, CEO and co-founder at Silent Eight. This will even help make professionals “uber productive” compared to where they are today. “While a 10x engineer — an engineer that can achieve 10X more than the typical engineer — is considered exceptional today, in 12 months that may be normal and a 100x engineer might be exceptional.”
Still, there will be demand for such roles — 100x engineers — who can apply reasoning and context to the capabilities AI provides. Roles “that are repetitive and heavily dependent on exact and predictable outcomes will be the ones most impacted by AI,” Farley predicts. “Data, mathematics, and manual repetitive tasks will be the ones where we will leverage AI, based on the ability to remember endless data and predictable outcomes.”
On the other hand, “AI is remarkable with published facts and is dreadful with unpredictable emotions. There are certain qualities “that are uniquely human, and other qualities humans have learned out of necessity,” says Farley. “For example, knowing the capital of each US state is harder for a human to remember than it is for a computer. Human strengths that will be the hardest for AI to replace will be things like empathy and relationships, though I’m sure there will be attempts to feign both of these.”
Another way to look at it is “taking the robot out of the human and allowing humans to do what humans do best – strategic thinking, empathy and building authentic relationships,” says Farley.
Should non-technical business professionals even try to deeply understand how to build or deploy AI, then? Non-technical business professionals need not be AI experts, but should know how to leverage it, Markiewicz urges. “For example, a researcher who usually takes a week to produce viable research could leverage AI to complete a report in one hour. Then they can spend the additional time analyzing and creating new content.”
An analogy Farley puts forth is the fact that “many people know how to drive cars, as there are many uses for this type of personal transportation. Fewer people know how to build and repair them.”
Still, there are many twists and turns coming on the road to AI, and managers and professionals need to be ready and adaptable to any surprise developments. “If large language models develop to be trusted to respect copyright and to share sourcing then lots of professions will be impacted by this development alone,” says Markiewicz. “If the technology does not develop in this direction then displacement will be limited. We must also remember that AI is a lot more than the recent consumer-friendly play tools. Enterprise AI has been around for a decade and has only helped create new opportunities for people.”
For his part, Farley feels positive about the future of management careers in the age of AI. “I’m very positive because for thousands of years, especially recently, humanity has continuously tried to become more productive, and that’s what’s happening now,” he says. “In the short term, increased productivity could be the perfect solution to solve our economic problems. In the long term, how we live our lives will change, but it’s really hard to predict which way things will turn. I really see an opportunity for AI to accelerate humanity to a more sustainable, creative and rewarding future. How that effects individual people is up to how that person positions themselves.”