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Weekly Research and Commentary on the Future of Business and Technology.

Are We Sure There’s No “WE” in GenAI?.

Mar 26, 2024

Back in January, Accenture released an interesting report on the outlook for reinventing the workforce in the age of Generative AI. On the whole, it’s worth browsing—although some of the more breathless passages do read like a report from a company that has booked over $1B in GenAI projects over the last six months. 😉

I found some of the survey statistics in the paper particularly striking. Accenture reported that 95% of workers surveyed see value in working with Gen AI, but—and this is significant—workers generally don’t trust their organizations to ensure positive and equitable outcomes of workforce transformation. Meanwhile, more than one-third of executives surveyed (36%) believe that their workers won’t fully embrace GenAI tools due to a lack of technological understanding.

In this chasm—or set of chasms, there is surely a huge space of opportunity for learning, and yet, the report also suggested that only about 5% (aka just 1 in 20) of organizations were providing GenAI-focused training to upskill their workforces at scale.

That was in January—and based presumably on survey data from 2023. Two weeks ago, we wrote here about the state of GenAI training workshops and specifically noted that such workshops were becoming increasingly common on corporate learning agendas as the year has unfolded. Even if we lower the heat just a tad on some of its claims (“Generative AI is likely the most significant change to work since the agricultural and industrial revolutions.”), the Accenture report makes a pretty compelling case for bumping GenAI upskilling to the top of the learning agenda—and doing it at scale and quickly. Again, huge space of opportunity and all that.

And yet I somehow can’t help wondering if there’s a chance that we’re already missing the forest for the trees here as these workshops roll out and the reports urgently calling for them continue to pile up. Surveying the corporate learning landscape for the year ahead, I see a real risk of undervaluing the continued development of skills supporting human-to-human collaboration and high-performance teams while organizations rush headlong to upskill individuals as more effective AI-empowered workers.

For the foreseeable future—and likely beyond that—a thriving and adaptable organization will need more than a collection of super-skilled soloists (be they cyborgs or centaurs). Rather, it will need a group that still knows how to operate as a well-integrated but fluid ensemble, particularly as the value of continuous learning and reinvention to support relevance in the long term becomes increasingly clear.