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In 2001, an article titled ‘Who’s afraid of the internet?’ was published, opening with ‘In these early days of the internet, it looks like we both worship and are horrified by this new medium.’1

More than 20 years later, headlines surrounding the takeover of artificial intelligence (AI) feels eerily like deja vu. As an industry valued to increase by over 13x over the next 7 years, and currently valued globally at over £158 billion, it’s no wonder that 83% of organisations name AI as a top priority.2

The velocity at which AI is moving can feel too fast to ignore, yet too fast to keep up. And while some have felt this is a topic ‘for the techies’, every conversation we have about AI ends with a focus on people. In an environment where excitement, fear, progress and cynicism are all swirling at pace, we look at how focusing on people lies at the heart of unlocking the benefits of AI.

Circling back to purpose

How often have you heard the topic of ‘AI’ being thrown around, with no real use case or meaning attached? Vague mentions of AI in an organisation’s future is leaving people feeling more jittery than enthused.

As change practitioners, it’s in our blood to make the complex simple. Even if we don’t have all the answers, we can still act with bold integrity, tackling head on questions for how AI will impact future roles and organisational structure. Where can AI help us achieve our organisation’s vision? Where does usage align to our organisation’s values? Let’s not just ask how ‘could’ we use AI, let’s be clear on where we ‘should’ first.

Keep calm and use real talk

Recent research from the UK found that twice as many adults think AI brings greater risks than benefits, than those who thought it has more benefits than risks.3 How do we walk the razor-sharp line between threat and opportunity?

Change practitioners are crucial in humanising this technology and dispelling myth from fact. We can cut through the rhetoric by bringing the narrative back down to earth by replacing the ‘what if’s’ with the right now use of AI (and the ‘why’!).

Not all of us are driving AI-powered cars or working in AI virtual reality offices, so let’s shift the focus from 2034 to 2024. While the rise of GenAI is mercurial, AI has been in our organisations for years. The likelihood is that your organisation can already start shouting about AI enabled technology, such as Microsoft Co-pilot and Zapier, which powers everyday productivity and connectivity in your organisation. Less hype, more real talk will help everyone stay grounded.

Let’s play

Boundaries will set the guardrails, turning apprehension into curiosity. Learn through play by creating the space for experimentation in a protected setting.

It might be obvious, but guidelines on which AI tools are available to use at work, with easy-to-follow guidance on how to be AI-responsible, is a crucial starting point. AI champion groups can create grassroots interest communities, while AI playgrounds can be set up for testing in contained spaces or pilots. The more you make it safe to fail and learn, the faster your critics turn into adopters (and the better you mitigate the risk of people playing outside the boundaries!). So, encourage play – safely.

Relax – we’re all learning

We might not have all the answers, but we can keep asking the right questions. Let this thought reassure you: as change makers, we can’t always get it right! So yes, it might feel uncomfortable as people at all levels are exposed to new skills and ambiguity. But remember – more than 40 years on since the birth of the internet (as we know it), we are all still students on its peaks and pitfalls. We are all learning.

At Gate One, we’re not believers in ‘AI for the sake of AI’. Instead, we encourage our clients to apply it strategically (and tactically) where it can have the most value. Let’s empower our communities to make their daily jobs easier and transform their organisations where it truly matters. You don’t need to be an AI expert to understand this is a revolution being defined by people. We can be better with AI, and we’re all better than AI.

Isabelle Stroud
Sophie Di Clemente

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