A new framework for AI adoption
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In this week’s podcast, Matt Kasner (head of product @ PlayerZero) and I discussed what it will take to avoid being replaced by AI - and reached the conclusion that in order to make yourself irreplaceable, you have to see yourself as an ever-evolving project (click here to listen to the full podcast):
"Are you consistently disrupting? Are you in that mindset of disrupting yourself to stay ahead? And I like to see myself as this project that will always be a project, and with technology it's more important than ever to be constantly redefining and innovating on the way that I go about my job, and the way I think about problems, and AI is a way to kind of help feed into that."
What Matt’s getting at here is that for high-level roles like product management, there’s no line between human and machine - only a set of jobs to be done. Therefore, whatever combination of technology and human effort completes those jobs at the lowest possible cost, and the highest possible quality, will win out in the end. In this paradigm, it’s up to you to invent and constantly reinvent a playbook for delivering value.
In the pod, Matt introduces a fantastic framework for augmenting your skills and becoming a driving force for AI adoption in your organization. It starts with vulnerability... before you can optimize, you need to know what you’re optimizing, and that requires looking at yourself with objectivity to identify your strengths and weaknesses.
Actionably, I recommend starting with a blank piece of paper and drawing a line down the middle of it. Label the piece of paper with one of your most common ‘jobs to be done’. On the left side, list out your strengths with regard to the job, and on the right side list out your weaknesses. You’ll end up with something that looks like this:
Now that I’ve taken stock of my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to creating SEO content, I can begin creating a framework for optimizing my time spent on this particular task. I know that topic & keyword identification and making topics actionable are strengths of mine, so for now, I don’t need to waste any time trying to optimize them. Instead, I’ll start by looking into tools that can help augment my weaknesses. Let’s start with the first weakness I identified: time spent writing simple content.
I know off the top of my head that there are a ton of tools for generating simple written content, so I can combine this weakness with another one to find a tool that will fit my specific needs. In this case, I’m Googling: “copywriting AI tools that can create SEO-optimized content”. Following this process helped me find the AI SEO-writing tool Byword, which not only writes high-quality long-form content, but also optimizes keyword density based upon the keywords/titles provided to it. With two weaknesses down, I simply repeat the process for my remaining weaknesses... and boom, I have a list of tools to try out that will actually make me more efficient, as well as pre-established expectations of my own performance with which to judge their effectiveness.
All you have to do to ensure you’re bringing in tools that actually move the needle is follow this process to a t. Simply repeat this for each of the most important jobs in your role until you’ve accounted for 100% of your time spent working each week. This framework has been great for me as it eliminates the “ooh look, shiny cool thing” effect that AI tends to have and cuts straight to the elements of my workflow that actually need augmentation.
Here’s another example: say I’m a product lead for a small startup with 7 employees. In such a business, bandwidth is incredibly limited and it’s crucial to ensure that work is delegated according to each individual’s unique skills. All too often though, work is actually delegated according to convenience.
For example, let’s say I need to take some production data and find the insights in it that are relevant to how I’ll plan out our next feature. I’m not a data scientist by trade, and I don’t understand code. But... I have 4 engineers on my team, all of whom are capable of visualizing data. So, I grab the one with the least amount of work currently on their plate and ask them to make some visualizations for me. Now, they may be competent with visualizing data, but by handing off this task to someone who doesn’t have my particular skillset, I guarantee that the learnings I’m actually able to take from the analysis will be limited to those my engineer can produce. What I actually need is an AI tool that can think about the data from a product owner’s perspective, and produce insights in a language that I can understand - in other words, I need to create an extension of myself that has the skills I lack.
If I would have done a strengths and weaknesses analysis prior to handing this work off to my engineer, I could have found the following Chat GPT use case from Jason Calacanis:
The way I see it, AI is coming for the minutia first - the pieces of our work that we wish we didn’t have to do and that contribute to a feeling of drudgery and inefficiency in the workplace. Jerry Cuomo (IBM Fellow and CTO of automation @ IBM) put it this way:
“Automation powered by artificial intelligence is changing our working lives by increasingly freeing people to apply their talent and effort to high-value work. Enterprises still spend billions of hours each year on mundane repetitive work, and AI can remove this burden so their people can focus on things that really matter. We call it making time for brilliance. We can use AI to transform people into superhumans.”
That’s not to say that AI won’t replace entire roles, but that those roles will specifically be around the “back office” tasks that white collar workers spend so much time on when they could be spending time finding unique solutions and innovating. So, how can you make yourself superhuman with AI? Take it one step at a time... keep open tabs for each and every “weakness” you’ve identified that doesn’t yet have a solution. See yourself as an ongoing project, and never stop optimizing.
Some of my favorite pieces on the subject of how AI can make us superhuman:
- How AI-powered automation is giving people superhuman abilities by Jerry Cuomo, for IBM
- Getting back to the core of a Product Manager in the face of AI by Christine Itwaru, for Mind the Product
- Superhuman artificial intelligence can improve human decision-making by increasing novelty by Minkyu Shin, Jin Kim, Bas van Opheusden, and Thomas L. Griffiths, for the National Academy of Sciences