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AI: Training for Play

AI is the word on everyone’s lips these days, but, over the past couple of months, one particular aspect keeps popping up in conversations within our network (from partners to advisors to the media). That’s “AI play.”

As leading British businesswoman advisor and friend of TFD, Margaret Rice-Jones put it: “When we are kids we learn by ‘playing’ and when it comes to getting your business started in AI you need to do the same: encourage staff to play and see what they can do using freely available tools.

In fact, many of us are already playing with these free tools. According to Microsoft and LinkedIn’s 2024 Work Trend Index Annual Report, for example, the use of generative AI has nearly doubled in six months, with 75% of global knowledge workers using it. 

While governments and business leaders grapple with policy and regulations, employees are taking a BYO approach to AI with 78% of AI users bringing their own AI tools to work (BYOAI).

And it’s not a Gen Z thing

As the Microsoft and LinkedIn study highlights, we’re all playing with AI: while 85% of GenZ AI users are bringing their own AI tools to work, so too are 73% of Baby Boomers (with Millennials and Gen Xers sitting in the middle of the range).

Creating safe spaces to play

As organisations, however, most could be considered to be in a ‘nursery’  or ‘toddler phase’ of learning to play with AI: learning how to play safely; deciding whether or not we should be allowed to play with this powerful tool at all and when a supervisor may need to intervene etc. 

In such an early phase of development, guidance and support are vital to safe experimentation. 

Margaret Rice-Jones advises:

“For free tools, encourage everyone to access them, but make sure you set up a sandbox with dummy data for this so no sensitive company data leaves your control. Paid for tools don’t have this issue, but watch out for ownership of data with free tools. Doing this in code generation, for example, could lead to potential IPR issues.

“Get people to start sharing the results they have from playing, reward and acknowledge those stepping forward to try to get others seeing they should use them too. Soon you will start to see how it can work in your team. Every company will use it a bit differently, but it offers huge productivity gains and opportunities to scale without needing huge teams and investment.”

As David Norris, Chief Growth Officer at Holiday Extras observed adoption can then spread organically:

“Early ChatGPT users in the organization were so proud of the work they were doing, they couldn’t help but tell colleagues. Employee word-of-mouth on the quality of work became an instant driver of ChatGPT adoption.”

PwC has invested heavily in AI (over $1 billion) and is driving adoption through a structured approach to upskilling its team. It launched the “My AI” upskilling initiative in August 2023, creating +350 person cross-functional volunteer team of Gen AI Super-Users to lead teams through this transformation. The team comprises a wide range of roles, most of whom aren’t technical experts but, notably they are overseen by My+ Activators, who are employees experienced in the field of AI.

By educating ourselves and our teams, we can empower them to understand the different forms of AI and help them to make better decisions about how to create the environments to play in safely and help to better identify areas where AI can add value, fill gaps, elevate us and simply relieve the mental load of modern life. 

Training and play must be for all

At this year’s AI for Good Summit, Exponential View’s Azeem Azhar exhorts leaders too, to be hands-on and get involved in trying these tools out, now.

“You need to have deep visceral intuitive knowledge of the tools and how they work at this point. At some point in the future, in the next decade or so, leaders like you, will not need to be hands-on because we will know how this technology works -  today we don't.

“So I do encourage people… spend time (8 hours, 10 hours) going deep using these tools for something you care about to understand their strengths and limitations and surprises, so whatever vision and direction you come out with is not theoretical, it's grounded in your own experience.”

Equally, as Dr. Eliza Filby, historian of generational evolution, asked in, our client, The Adaptavist Group’s Expert Hour, 

“How many businesses fixate on their young colleagues and do not look to their over 40 employees and think, ‘that's the future of our business’?

“ an ageing society where we need to work more, that's just a reality. So you need to train and incorporate and include your older workers as much as your younger workers and too often I do not see that, particularly in tech.” 

Gen X may have +20 years more of working life and AI is not about to exit the stage so we need to prioritise training ALL generations on AI and how they can “play responsibly” and use AI to bring generations together rather than as a source of division (more on this to follow soon…)

If organisations are to be future focused, Eliza advises, they need generational diversity and to embrace both the curiosity of the entrepreneurial spirit and experience of life, rather than focus on one generation over another.

Leading by example

Here at TFD we want to practise what we preach and prioritise training across the board and encourage all our team members to think about where AI can complement their skills, fill gaps or simply relieve the mental load, but also understanding where caution is needed.

If you want to train your teams there’s a wealth of free tools available including:

Microsoft’s Copilot Scenario Library (provides guidance on how AI can support specific job functions)

IBM’s Skills Build 

LinkedIn Learning’s Framework for AI Upskilling  (links to many useful resources depending on your needs)

Post credits:

Thanks to Margaret Rice-Jones and Dr. Eliza Filby and our client, The Adaptavist Group for inspiring this article. 

Dr. Eliza Filby is a historian of generational evolution and contemporary values who has been working with TFD on The Adaptavist Group’s Digital Etiquette report.

Margaret Rice-Jones is British businessperson who has successfully led a number of different companies including SkyScanner as well as Admiral Group’s comparison ventures. She has acted as a NED for a number of leading businesses (from financial services to travel and telecoms) and holds the position of Chairman at both Scaleup Institute and Origami Energy Ltd. 

The Adaptavist Group 

The Adaptavist Group is a global family of companies with one common goal: to make business work better. They combine the best talent, technology, and processes to make it easier for their customers to excel—today and tomorrow. 

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