Why AI genius causes a training headache for agencies

'More senior people need to invest in the training of juniors'

As well as the wealth of opportunity that AI offers, I think there are areas we need to worry about and, no, l am not worried about AI replacing me. In fact, AI confirmed as much when I asked it that very question, ‘While AI can automate many tasks, strategic thinking and creative problem-solving remain essential skills. You should learn to use AI as a tool to enhance strategic decision-making rather than relying on it as a standalone solution…’  So there you go, nothing to worry about then. I’m alright Jack (for now). But AI is set to replace many jobs, Goldman Sachs think it’ll replace upwards of 300m full time jobs and that’s just a start.

What I am worried about is AI replacing or disrupting future me. If we’re not careful, it’s the process that got the professional me to being me, that could be seriously affected.

What do I mean?

I spent years listening to research tapes, doing so much desk research that it made me want to cry, and subsequently pulling out the best bits and iteratively learning where the insight actually was. I’ve also spent ages in meetings learning what a client is actually asking for, years writing strategies, writing decks, writing briefs, and seeing some of them be successful (and others not), and learning from it all. It’s this amount of experience and work that allows me to be… me. 

What do people say about 10k hours? These miles on the clock are valuable, and are what enable me to still be better than AI now. But given that AI can, in seconds, genuinely do a 7/10 job on most of that stuff, where and how is future me, or ‘juniors’, going to pick up these skills? Goldman Sachs also say that they think ‘roughly two-thirds of current jobs are exposed to some degree of AI automation, and that generative AI could substitute up to one-fourth of current work.’

The unarguable laws of economics will mean that we won’t need to employ these ‘juniors’ or as many of them and, if we do, we won’t be asking them to do the kind of work that AI can do in 4.3 seconds. AI can transcribe tapes and tell you the important bits, it can review marketplaces, it can write bad briefs; stuff that used to take weeks.

So, in this world, how many ‘juniors’ will we actually need? And then how do they get to the point where they know a good brief from a bad one, a real insight from just fact, etc. You get my point.

Professor David Shrier from Imperial College Business School points out that ‘you need a senior person to look at what the AI generates and tweak – but you don’t need an army of junior people to generate the original work’.

Not surprisingly this is very worrying if you are a bit younger than me. 76% of Gen Zers report that they are concerned about losing their jobs to ChatGPT. ‘Because 100% of organisations are looking at ways to use AI to perform lower-level tasks, according to Insider. Automating many of these so-called junior tasks, where on the job training takes place, is a huge risk for Gen Z.’ So if AI can quickly, cheaply and efficiently do the things that are necessary for people to do to become better than AI, we have a sort of circular problem. And I think it means we probably need to rethink training and experience.

Especially as only 38% of contract workers report receiving formal training from their legal employer, and even less training at the site where they were assigned, according to Forbes.

They go on to say, ‘companies are turning to every possible solution — cutting training programs, cutting costs, and creating opportunities for always-on AI solutions. If leadership won’t invest in training for new workers, maybe they would rather invest in getting rid of them altogether?’

That would be a mistake, but I do think it is therefore beholden on us to be more conscious of the foundational type of experience and training required and we need to make sure that people still get it — despite the obvious lure of cheaper and faster AI. Not in the same way as before, that would be absurd, but it does need to be replicated in some way.

I think this means that more senior people need to invent and invest in the training of the juniors in a new and more targeted way, as they simply won’t get the miles they once did.

How do we do this?

I guess we need to invent, for example, tests and courses that teach how to prioritise info, how to extract insight, how to write briefs etc. And I know there are already loads of those, and there are some brilliant managers out there — but they typically rely on or assume practice and real life application. I suspect we may need to move into the more time intensive realm of actual coaching, monitoring, mentoring, taking more time to go through and explain our working — not just marking up and taking people through notes on a deck they’ve already written. We might have to coach all the way through that process.

I know people do it now but perhaps we need to more radically formalise it. We might also have to invent practice. In fact, the kind of courses we used to invent for clients. Do I have a point or am I worrying too much, do you think our approach to training may need to change? 

If we get it right it could be a lovely gift from all of us to the future uses out there.

Featured image: Michelangelo Buonarroti / Pexels

Nick Radley, Founder at Oceanic Strategic Planning

Nick has 25+ years’ experience in brand strategy and planning, which has allowed him to combine deep audience understanding, brand development and a knack for creative communication. His career has seen him fly across the globe and work across several famous campaigns; he’s launched a national retailer and developed new ways of shopping for another. He’s improved the trust of an insurance brand and made milkshakes more appealing and healthier to adults. Nick now owns a brand and strategic planning consultancy. OSP uses my years of experience and insight crafting brands and campaigns to deliver great brand strategies fast.

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