One thing we know for sure—work is changing dramatically—partly because of rapidly advancing technology, and partly because of other forces. And, despite all the dystopian theories that proclaim otherwise, we are not headed toward a future where robots take all the jobs and make humans unnecessary.
Still, such rapid technological change can rattle even the most rational people—How can I ensure my job will not be eliminated by machines? How does artificial intelligence even work? Do I have control over it? If I streamline my work with automation, what’s left for me to do?
Humans have experience, values and judgment—qualities that no machine can replicate (yet)
That brings us to additional things we know for sure—humans have experience, values and judgment—qualities that no machine can replicate (yet). Perhaps most importantly, humans are capable of self-determination, the ability to choose, to assert themselves, and write their own narrative.
For employees today, it’s critical to see technology—intelligent or otherwise—for the tool that it is. Take the time to understand how it works and how to make it work for you. Here are a few points to get you started:
AI IN LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT. In corporate L&D, AI can be applied in two general areas—knowledge management and content development.
■ In knowledge management, AI-powered learning systems can provide you with personalized recommendations for courses or learning paths, or enable you to easily pick up where you left off no matter which device you are using—similar to how Netflix suggests titles based on your browsing and watching history. Learning becomes more personalized, relevant and effective, and enables you to build the skills you need to excel now and in the future.
■ In content development, AI can help make your learning experience more effective and less time-consuming. Because technology changes constantly, learning content must continually be updated and tweaked to be effective. AI-powered learning can use data—such as where you are pausing, skipping or stopping on a training video and how long you are spending on specific sections—to optimize the material. The result—you get only the information you want and need, delivered in the most efficient way possible.
AI IN PRODUCTIVITY SOFTWARE. Artificial intelligence is integrated into systems that enable spam detection, virtual assistants (Cortana, Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant), computer vision in self-driving cars, and more.
Microsoft has added numerous AI-powered features and functionality to Office 365, and it promises more to come. Here’s a look at a few, and how you can use them to increase your productivity:
■ In Excel: If you aren’t sure how to present your data, you can use the Ideas feature, which automatically detects and highlights patterns, and identifies trends, outliers, and other useful visualizations. It’s as simple as clicking a cell in a data range, and then clicking the Ideas button on the Home tab—the feature will analyze your data and present a range of visualization options to choose from. Other Excel AI features include new data types and dynamic arrays.
■ In PowerPoint: The Design ideas feature enables you to spend less time figuring out how to create a polished presentation and more time preparing for it. Once you’ve enabled the feature, PowerPoint automatically shows you presentation design options when you add photos or text to your slides.
■ In Word, PowerPoint and Outlook: The Editor feature relies on machine learning and natural language processing plus input from Microsoft linguists to identify spelling, grammar and writing style issues. The Editor pane then makes suggestions to help you improve your writing.
■ Other notable AI-powered apps and features include Teams, MyAnalytics, PowerBI, Focused Inbox, and more.
In an article for the London Business School Review, writers Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott reassure us that the technological future is not a “hardware story in which ever more perfected technology eats up the world, leaving less and less space for weak, fickle, messy humans.” Indeed, the technological future is the story of individuals who use ever more perfected technology to write their own narratives.
Jen is an award-winning journalist who writes about workplace productivity and technology for Vitalyst. She believes in the power of using plain language, especially when writing about technology, and lists “achieving and enabling clarity” among her life goals.