Some say that it’s finally happened—a turning point in the development of AI that will provide more fluid and human-like interactions. Of course, I’m talking about the advent of ChatGPT, which will no doubt be followed by a never-ending stream of similar and improved versions. This is how innovation works. The truth is that big bang innovation is rarely the reality, and this is no exception.
In the case of AI, this evolution has been coming for decades, and in the last decade, we have already been working for and with AI in two meaningful ways:
1. AI Collaboration: Every day, millions of people conduct searches, shop online, navigate the streets, and translate messages with the help of AI. We get assistance when writing emails and articles via AI-powered grammatical correction. There are fitness tracking applications that advise us on the best times to go to sleep and wake up each day. More recently (with tools like Midjourney and Dal-E) there are ways to collaborate with AI to create art. And yes, now, with ChatGPT, you can collaborate with AI to write content, write code, and solve problems.
2. AI Supervision: AI supervision has been an essential part of our economy for quite some time now, with the gig economy being one of the largest AI supervision experiments. Who tells an Uber Driver who to pick up? It’s certainly not a person, it’s AI. AI is telling thousands of ride-share, grocery delivery, and meal delivery gig workers where to go and what to do on a daily basis. In addition, consider warehouse and shipping company employees who work for companies like Amazon, FedEx, UPS, DHL (the list goes on). They are told what to pick and pack by an algorithm. Workflow in most fast food chains is also managed by AI, and customer service call centers have long been managed by algorithms that are designed to optimize call wait times for customers by routing callers to the appropriate representative. While these examples may seem focused on what might be considered entry-level positions, it won’t be long before AI is directing more sophisticated types of work.
These two trends will only accelerate as we move into the future, and the implications on humans in the workforce are critical to consider.
Right now, we have reached an era where innovation and speed to market are table stakes for the survival of any organization. And the main ingredients required to achieve these two outcomes are diversity, talent, and high levels of employee engagement (Bersin). If you believe in this last statement, let me offer some reasons why increasing your employees’ emotional intelligence skills is more important now than ever before.
1. Developing Emotionally Intelligent AI Applications: We have seen examples of early AI showing significant signs of bias because of how it was trained. Could engineers who are more adept at emotional intelligence be better at training AI that is also more emotionally intelligent? The answer seems to be – Yes! The specific AI field that focuses on this is called Emotion AI or Affective AI, and it’s been around since the mid-90s. This type of AI is focused on understanding and reacting appropriately to human emotions and is already in use in places like call centers, mental health monitoring, assistive services for neuro-diverse individuals, and even as a safety tool when driving. According to Gartner, by the end of this year, 10% of all devices will have emotional AI capabilities. As we enter a time when your co-worker (or even your boss) could eventually be AI, isn’t it critical that these applications contain some level of empathy, emotional awareness, and above all, kindness? And who else can impart those characteristics other than the engineers who are creating AI apps?
2. Emotional Resilience in the Age of AI: As the working relationship between humans and AI becomes more commonplace, employees will face new and unique challenges. ChatGPT reached 1 million users in 5 days—exponentially faster than any other application in the history of technology. To say that the pace of change is about to get even faster is an understatement. Study after study has confirmed that emotionally intelligent individuals are better able to cope with new challenges such as these and maintain resilience in the face of dramatic change. For a company to survive and thrive in this new environment, it needs to equip its employees with skills to navigate the individual and collective impact of the unprecedented level of change we will face.
3. Managing the Human-AI Relationship: As the relationship between humans and AI becomes more complex, it’s essential to understand the emotional dynamics at play. Emotionally intelligent individuals are likely to be better at managing the human-AI relationship and, as a result, create a more positive working environment. Employees with greater awareness of their emotions and the emotions of others will be able to more effectively integrate relationships with AI collaborators as these relationships become more prevalent. Companies that equip their employees with EI capabilities such as self-awareness and relationship management will be in a better position to navigate the complexity of building a working relationship with AI and thereby drive innovation and accelerate productivity.
4. Maintaining the Power of Diversity in an AI-Integrated World: Another thing we can be sure of is that the pace and need for innovation will not slow down. Innovation research proves the power of diversity to drive better decisions and more innovative solutions. It’s easy to look at AI as simply a source of information or a helper in creating something new, but increasingly AI will be an important diverse viewpoint to consider. AI does not have the experiential baggage that humans bring to the table and will be able to provide unique and unconsidered viewpoints on challenges that human teams are trying to solve. Emotionally intelligent teams will be more open to these potentially paradigm-changing viewpoints presented by AI partners.
As we enter the era of AI, emotional intelligence skills are more important than ever. Emotionally intelligent individuals are better equipped to navigate the unique challenges posed by AI in the workplace and create a positive working environment. Investing in emotional intelligence training not only benefits the human workforce but also ensures that AI applications are designed to act in an emotionally intelligent way, which is beneficial for both the users and the organization. Ultimately, emotional intelligence will be one of the deciding factors for many businesses as they race to keep up with the changing business landscape.