Joining the dots . . . on generative AI

Picture of laptop with added images over the top and the text spelling AI

This month Martin Couzins dives into the latest news on Generative AI and asks ‘who are you listening to?’

It’s all gone a bit bonkers. The generative AI news firehose shows no signs of diminishing, just take a look at the generative AI news updates on TechCrunch: I counted 34 stories on the topic published between 25 and 28 September and in there are some significant updates.

For L&D teams, there is an opportunity to then shape the opportunity for learning

Everyone is coming at this topic in different ways, and it is making things very noisy and hard to navigate. Who do you listen to? Why? Who else should you be listening to? What is and isn’t hype? Who has an agenda that is undeclared? Does that matter to you? And how do you make sense of all this information, especially when there are so many announcements?

AI and impacting work

Every workplace function is looking at the implications of using generative AI, and every organisation is looking at it too because it will change business and operating models and processes and have a knock-on effect on skills and how work is done. This will start at scale when Copilot launches to Microsoft’s enterprise customers on 1 November.

The fact that generative AI is a focus for the entire organisation and all its functions is a good thing for L&D. Previous new shiny learning tech has tended to be the concern of learning only, not the entire organisation, so L&D relied more on vendors to educate them on new technological developments. Not so generative AI. The IT team will be leading the way on this right now in many organisations, which means there are different voices to listen to – your colleagues, for example.

For L&D teams, there is an opportunity to get closer to IT and really understand how they are approaching generative AI so that you can then shape the opportunity for learning. This includes understanding your data and its governance and your data preparedness so that you can use AI effectively. There are data privacy concerns, legislative questions and concerns around bias and questions around the accuracy of results that need to be ironed out before adoption takes off. There is time to figure this out and experiment, especially if your technology partner is providing new generative AI functionality.

In the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office has published a set of questions related to the processing of personal data which will be useful in conversations with vendors.

Learning technology providers have a different challenge. They have to be seen to have a position on generative AI. It would look odd as a technology company not to have something to say about such a transformative technology. So what should they be saying? They are between a rock and a hard place on this topic.

Vendors need to be talking to their customers about this. Discussing short term applications of generative AI and their longer-term roadmaps as well as the thornier issues of data privacy and governance. The danger here – and you can see this happening already – is that vendors default to a product and features approach primarily talking about how they have adopted ChatGPT into their platforms.  The challenge for customers and prospects is to identify the more innovative – and useful – developments. And, most importantly, to understand business impact. Note that there are also learning technology companies that have been built on AI and that they will have a different story.

If customers and prospects are asking questions, like the ones below, then vendors need to have the answers1 (which would also make useful, differentiating content):

  • Does the solution fix a business problem, and do the builders truly understand that problem?
  • What does the security stack look like?
  • Is the product truly something that can improve over time?
  • What is the expertise of the technical team?

Ultimately, customers want to understand the business impact and that’s what vendors will need to show. And that’s why customer feedback/insights, case studies and webinars are such valuable formats – they are the formats that can tell that impact story, and in the words of your customers.

The learning industry is just getting to grips with the impact of generative AI and we all have a part to play in informing ourselves and each other. Understanding how and where we look for credible information on the topic will emerge over time but in the meantime let’s focus on how the technology is evolving, what this means for learning and learning teams, what this means for vendors and how it will impact on the business.

Here are a few news sources for keeping abreast of AI developments. I need to create a list of people focused on AI in corporate learning too. Who are you following that you would recommend to others?

OpenAI

AI News

Wired

MIT News

AI Business

TechCrunch

AWS Machine Learning Blog

The Guardian AI feed

IBM Blog on AI

Microsoft’s AI blog

Google Research blog

Google AI blog

Reference

  1. https://techcrunch.com/2023/09/01/questions-for-enterprise-buyers-evaluating-generative-ai

Martin Couzins

Martin Couzins is director of Insight Media and you can contact him direct at martincouzins@insightsmedia.co.uk

Martin Couzins

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