Develop Leaders and People for the AI Age (Pt 3 of 4)

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Leadership in the AI Age requires prioritizing people & putting AI as part of overall organizational development of people, technology, system, and process.

In Pt 1, I discussed AI related decision making steps for business leaders. In Pt. 2, I talked about how to create quality content or data to feed AI tools. In Pt. 3, I will discuss developing leadership and people for the AI Age.  In Pt 4, I will explain experience design (XD), after listing what AI can NOT do.

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At the time of this writing, too many articles are talking about AI, and too many “experts” are fanning the AI hype and AI FOMO (fear of missing out) for the impending AI Age. 

An email newsletter from McKinsey recently stated that “organizations have more than ever to gain from advances in technology—and more to lose from falling behind”.

In a recent Harvard Business Review promotion of their “HBR’s latest insights on the new age of AI”, coming up at the end of January, 2024, it echoed the same sentiment: “as generative AI tools like ChatGPT take over the digital landscape, your smartest competitors are already reaping the rewards of these new technologies.”

Hype and fear are for the feeble minded.

First, if you believe in blindly following the crowd out of FOMO, this article is not for you.  

If you value cool-headed thinking, and want to neither over-invest nor under-invest in AI, this article explains why you need to place AI within an overarching winning strategy of PEOPLE, TECHNOLOGY, SYSTEM, AND PROCESS, and why PEOPLE leads the way among these four elements.

In Pt 1, I discussed AI related decision making steps for business leaders. In Pt. 2, I talked about how to create quality content or data to feed AI tools. In Pt. 3 here, I will discuss developing leadership and people for the AI Age.  In Pt 4, I will explain experience design (XD), after listing what AI can NOT do. 

AI is for the people, by the people, and with the people, NOT the other way around

Not only the quality of AI results from the quality of decision making by people (with regard to the quality of data and content to be fed to AI), but the whole purpose of AI is to free people from routine chores so people can be more innovative, creative, productive, and fulfilled at work.

It is the people who train and evolve AI, and who stand to benefit from AI.

AI, as a tool, is a means to the end of liberating humanity to be more connected and more human.  Even though it is the content or data that makes or breaks an AI tool, as I explained in Pt 2, it’s the PEOPLE who create the content and design the user experience.

Therefore, do NOT prioritize AI over people development, and do NOT overestimate the importance of AI out of fear, anxiety, greed, or ignorance. 

Not unrelated to the above, generative AI may be further limited by intellectual property law.  As of today, Dec. 30, 2023, the copyright violation lawsuit filed by the New York Times against Open AI may result in profound limitations on generative AI: If AI can only use non-proprietary data and content — the most likely legal outcome, IMHO thanks to my law degree  — that means AI generated content for the general public is never going to be as cutting edge as proprietary content, and organizations are better off developing their own closed-universe AI tools for their own specific uses, not shared with others or outside their platforms.   

Develop leadership, develop people, develop AI, and develop your organization

As I said above, developing PEOPLE is first among the four elements. But who develops people? Leaders. Leaders must first and foremost lead themselves, to get ready for the AI Age. 

AI must NOT be viewed as IT issues mainly for CTOs, CIOs, software engineers, data scientists. The board and the entire C-suite, including CEO, CXO (chief experience officer), CHRO (chief HR officer), CMO (chief marketing officer), CRO (chief revenue officer), CFO, etc., and more importantly, the FRONTLINE employees must all be proactively participating in upskilling, retooling, as well as necessary organizational retrofitting, reshuffling, reorganizing.

The devil is in the details: To future proof your organization, start with your board, CEO, C-suite, all the way down to teams, employees… Everyone in your organization should be crystal clear about what exact customer pain points are going to be alleviated by what specific AI tools, and how AI and humans work together, how humans will guide, train, and feed your AI tools, and how solving specific customer pain points helps reach specific corporate goals, mission, and vision. Everything must be well planned and coordinated, so everyone is on the right track, in the right direction, doing the right things individually and collectively.

“Upskilling”, “reskilling”, “retooling”: these words are NOT just for acquiring AI technical skills and/or data management skills, but skills in written and verbal communication, original content creation, soft skills, relationship building skills, EQ, etc.  AI will take over the repetitive work and free up the workforce to interact more with each other and with customers. AI will expand each employee’s capabilities. Since it takes time to learn people skills and practice EQ, now is the time to start honing those skills at all levels of an organization, while AI is still baking in the oven. 

Employees “going upwards”, CEOs “going downwards”: For those organizations that are human-centered internally and customer-centric externally, previously low-skill, customer-facing, frontline employees are becoming knowledge workers. After all, they, more than anyone in the company, have first hand experience and data about their customers’ journey and friction points. They should be elevated to be active participants in training and innovating AI, not just users of AI. Thanks to social media, CEOs can learn about customer complaints in real time, and have the opportunity to selectively answer them in public, to showcase customer-centric leadership to the world. (Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have demonstrated exactly this on social media, by answering customer complaints in real time). 

The future of work and customer experience will be changed by AI, hopefully for the better.  Ideally, with a less rigid corporate hierarchy, more interchangeable roles, and more opportunities for upward and downward mobility, the workforce at all levels can contribute innovative ideas to improve teams’ workflow, back office function, and employee satisfaction (ESAT). Externally, AI of humans, by humans, for humans, (thank you Abraham Lincoln) can identify customer frictions, improve customer experience design, customer interaction, customer journey mapping, and CSAT – customer satisfaction, and go above and beyond to customer delight, loyalty, and long term relationship.

The time to set the course for AI to grow in this positive upward spiral, is NOW. Failure to be decisive, proactive, and timely may lead to the beginning of a destructive downward spiral resulting in humanity’s suffering by relinquishing control over AI.  

Before your AI “orchestra” starts to play, leaders need to set the right tone, start on the right note, lay the correct foundation, to avoid discord, cacophony, and disasters.

Develop leadership, develop people, develop AI, and develop your organization, in this order.

Stay tuned for the last Pt. 4 of 4: “Develop What AI Can NOT Do with Experience Design (XD), to train AI to Serve Humanity.”

About the author: Joanne Z. Tan is an executive brand coach, brand strategist, content creator, AI experience designer, leading 10 Plus Brand, Inc, a multiple award-winning brand building, brand marketing, experience design for AI, customers, users, consumers, global digital marketing agency. Please feel free to contact us for any content, branding, and experience design advice by visiting, thank you.

© Joanne Z. Tan    All rights reserved.

In Pt 1, I discussed AI related decision making steps for business leaders. In Pt. 2, I talked about how to create quality content or data to feed AI tools. In Pt. 3, I discussed developing leadership and people for the AI Age. In Pt 4, I will explain experience design (XD), after listing what AI can NOT do.


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