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AI can't comete with thriving human teams
Stop worrying about AI taking jobs - do this instead
By Duncan Austin on Wed 19 June 2024

Human AI

People are worried that AI will take their jobs, and with good cause (yes, that image above is AI generated). AI can now do many things we would have thought impossible just a few years ago. As AI pushes up the performance needed for people to have an economic value in society, we face the prospect of a large portion of our population being unemployed. That is a scary social disaster.

AI is good at looking at past patterns and projecting something similar. That’s what generative AI does: it looks at the past and generates something similar. Unfortunately, that’s what a lot of people’s jobs are.

However, I think we’re missing an opportunity. A lot of people management and “best practice” essentially treats people as if they were machines and that is often the opposite to how people actually thrive (see the stats about how broken work is here ):

If we treat our people and jobs as if they were machines, are we surprised that we’re getting to the point where machines do the job better?
  • Separate jobs into little boxes and get people to do just one thing over and over. Machines are very good at that. People are not. People develop.
  • Focus on defects to maximise productivity: that works well for machines that all do the same thing, but it kills human development and performance .
  • Have people work in isolation: one person does one thing — works for machines, but not people. People are brilliant in teams that are structured on the principles of collective intelligence.
  • Put people under as much stress as we think they can bear: that works for machines, but will break people. People are most effective and grow most when they are enjoying what they do which is when their parasympathetic nervous system is more active.
  • One size fits all: treat people as if they are all the same with generic, uniform job descriptions. That also works well for machines but is the opposite of how people work. People are unique. For people, one size fits one.

If we treat our people and jobs as if they were machines, are we surprised that we’re getting to the point where machines do the job better?

People are not machines! Human excellence is always surprising and unique. Each human brain is unique. We need to start treating them as such.

People are goal-oriented. We’re made to thrive on moving forward toward something worthwhile. What is worthwhile is unique to each person - let people shape the unique impact they can have towards the company or team goals.

Pay attention to what people get into the flow for, specifically. That is where they will be brilliant. That is how they are energised, literally. Develop that! Where they go and the impact they will have will surprise you. Go with it.

Structure teams to be more social. We are social creatures. Teams that have higher social perceptiveness and have a buzz of communication about work related tasks are greater than the sum of the individuals in the teams. Much greater.

And above all, for pity's sake, maintain trust. Without trust, nothing works.

I am convinced that AI cannot compete with thriving human teams. Thriving teams are not difficult to achieve. We just need to pay attention to the science of human thriving, individually and in groups.

Let machines do what machines are good at - it’s boring anyway. Let people be brilliant by treating them like people.