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AI — A whole new way of working; with benefits, not threats

Over the past few years, nearly everything about work has changed. The dimensions that define the way we work — space and time — went from being fixed, to flexible. This new flexibility has opened new options for when and where we work — synchronously or asynchronously, in the office or remotely. But with that greater flexibility has come greater complexity. There’s more information and communication than ever, but there’s also too much of both. We’re beset by drudgery — the work about work that always feels like it’s getting in the way of the deep work that creates real value. We don’t just need a better way of doing the same things. We need a whole new way of working.

AI promises to help us not only overcome these challenges but vastly expand what’s possible. We’re accustomed to AI in our daily online experiences — personalising our news feeds or suggesting an email autocomplete. This AI is so ubiquitous, that we’re barely aware of it. Now, however, powerful new foundation models, together with accessible natural language interfaces, have ushered in a pivotal new phase of AI — one that moves us from ‘AI on autopilot’ to ‘AI as copilot’. It’s a whole new interaction model between humans and computers, turning natural language into the most powerful productivity tool on the planet.

“Today marks the next major step in the evolution of how we interact with computing, which will fundamentally change the way we work and unlock a new wave of productivity growth,” says Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO of Microsoft. “With our new copilot for work, we’re giving people more agency and making technology more accessible through the most universal interface — natural language.” This next-generation AI will transform work and augment human capabilities in three ways: It will unleash creativity. It will unlock productivity. And it will uplevel skills.

“While many still feel threatened by the possibility that AI will take over their jobs, there is a clear role for AI to play in a manner that is both synergistic and complementary to the human component,” says Emil Henrico, CEO of iSCC.

With next-generation AI, the possibilities for invention and expression expand. Instead of starting with a blank page, we can chat with AI to generate options—ideas for a speech; a rough draft of a white paper; or multiple versions of a customer presentation. This doesn’t make AI a substitute for human capabilities. Instead, it augments them, enabling an entirely new way of working.

One way to frame creative collaboration with AI is to think of the person in the human-AI interaction as the gardener. We plant the seed of an idea through a prompt to a natural language interface. Chatting with the AI to help the work bloom, we arrive at a higher quality output faster than was possible before. That’s because we spent less time generating the raw material and more time applying the best of our knowledge and insight. With AI as our creative generator, we can apply the full force of our human ingenuity to our work.

To truly focus on the work that matters most, we must first confront information overload — a challenge that only feels more acute in the hybrid era. AI has a powerful part to play here too.

The big problem at the heart of information overload is relevance. Everyone is inundated with data and information, but only a small sliver of that information contains something that a specific individual needs to know or points to a specific task that person needs to complete. Buried amid a mountain of data is information we can’t afford to miss. With AI, we can unearth what matters in minutes.

AI-powered tools can not only summarise a day’s worth of meetings but also highlight and share what’s relevant to a given individual or team. This will help eliminate FOMO and empower people to attend just the meetings that matter, catch up when they’re late, or revisit important points to better address action items.

GitHub research points to the promise of next-generation AI to unlock productivity. In a survey of developers, 88% said they were able to get tasks done more quickly using AI-powered GitHub Copilot than without it, and 74% said it enabled them to focus on more satisfying work.

A critical concept for understanding the capabilities of next-generation AI is ‘augmentation’ versus ‘substitution’. If an individual is good at something, AI can help them become great. If they couldn’t do something before, AI can help them do it now. Work becomes a more joyful experience as we throw off the limits that keep our ideas from becoming realised.

Think of AI as the ultimate tool for prototyping, even for work outside our own skill sets. It makes your writing better, even as it makes you a better writer. While many of us have access to powerful productivity tools, we tend to use just a fraction of their capabilities.

New AI technology gives us access to the full computational capabilities of Microsoft Excel and the limitless design potential of PowerPoint. AI can help us with the work we find most difficult so we can get back to the work we love. All we have to do is ask.

This new era of AI is in its early days. The opportunities are immense, but it will be critical to move forward with a growth mindset and a responsible approach.

Experimentation and learning are key and will lead to a greater understanding of how to use AI effectively and responsibly. Technologies that change the course of human history are those that amplify ingenuity, laying the foundation for innovation to flourish.

Electricity didn’t just create a better power source; it enabled a whole new way to design factories — vastly improving productivity and creating the modern consumer economy. True progress will bend the productivity curve.

Contact the team at iSSC to find out more about how Microsoft Copilot can help you gain the upper edge in the AI era.

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