Adapting To AI: The New World Of Organizational Ingenuity

As we all begin to understand the role of AI in our companies, a new era has emerged. The era of what I call the “Super-worker” – where each individual in the company has “superhuman” powers they’ve never experienced before.

Yes, thanks to AI we all have access to information, insights, education, and perspectives we used to work hard to obtain. Our new AI system, the Josh Bersin Company HR Copilot (we’re previewing it at the conference next week), gives HR professionals access to 20+ years of research, vendor analysis, case studies, and labor market data – all from a single prompt. So HR professionals, just like all over workers, suddenly have access to information that used to take hours (or weeks) to assemble.

If you look at the productivity of the global economy (measured by GDP per hours worked), the curve is almost tilting straight up. In other words, the era of AI, which I call the “intelligence era,” is going to lead to employees and workers with superpowers like never before. And these folks, who we may hire for a particular job, will soon be able to multi-disciplinary things, simply due to the power of neural-network based learning and information retrieval.

As Geoffrey Hinton describes in his latest discussions, Generative AI is not just a “faster way to find or assemble information.” It connects information from thousands of sources and assimilates it into context at a speed we’ve never seen before. So in our case, and HR professional who’s working on a compensation issue can immediately see the role of tenure, diversity, job level, and even performance all in a single place.

I’ve asked Bard to do things like “analyze the financial performance of Exxon vs. Chevron” and in only a minute it showed me variations in gross margins, reserves, market capitalization, profitability, and a host of other metrics which each take time to figure out. It brings together multi-faceted information and does a pretty good job of making sense of it as a whole.

And that leads me to the topic of my speech: if we assume our employees will become “Superman” through these tools, how do we harness all this intelligence and productivity so we can operate as a whole, profitable organization? Companies are not made up of the sum total of their employees: they are “bigger than the sum of employees,” creating all sorts of synergies, and team multipliers developed through learning, innovation, alignment, and culture.

Consider the Apple Vision Pro. According to my sources there were thousands of people working on this for seven years. The results of that work were not the sum of 1000 people doing independent engineering innovations. It was the collection of these people into teams, groups, projects, and learnings that resulted in a spectacular, category-defining product.

As I will describe next week, this gives way to a new idea, something I call “Organizational Ingenuity.” Building on the seven principles of The Irresistible Organization (book), we now have to rethink how our companies work, assuming that every employee will have access to information and insights in a faster and more integrated way than ever before.

Imagine how customer service will work, or sales, or marketing, or engineering. Generative AI is not just a tool to help them write emails faster or produce snazzy brochures – those are the small, incremental improvements. How can we realign these groups to make them an order of magnitude more productive as information starts to flow speedier and in a more integrated way?

And let’s not assume that AI suddenly makes people more capable. It will definitely help every SuperEmployee quickly gain new skills, but now they’ll feel a gap in experience. So we need to design our AI-superpower solutions so people don’t just read or listen, but they act and learn from that information.

(PS: I was pretty unimpressed that Salesforce’s big AI innovation was letting sales reps send irritating emails faster. In the last two weeks I’ve been flooded with junk solicitations driven by AI. This is “not” ingenuity at work.)

I won’t give away all the secrets here, but one thing I will mention. I think companies will get smaller. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the pandemic and all the Systemic HR research we’ve done this year, it’s that most managers and leaders still think along the lines of “let’s hire more people to grow our company faster.” I think that principal will likely be reversed. The new mantra may be “how do we reduce the overhead and bureaucracy in that group and use AI to make it operate faster and more integrated than ever.”

This requires a major shift in talent management, job architecture, and organizational design. As I discuss briefly in my podcast this week (and we’ll talk about more in Los Angeles), we need a “post-industrial” model of organization design, performance management, accountability, and leadership. And that, I believe, will be the biggest innovation ahead.

Join us on this journey, it’s going to be an exciting decade in the world of leadership, HR, and continuous learning.