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ON AGENCY...


Giving people and teams Agency in organisations, by leveraging Generative AI to accomplish complex tasks, is what inspires me, and I use that as a basis for many of the videos in my YouTube channel. I believe that leaders have the responsibility to understand the rolling potential, impacts and risks of GenAI, and the best way to do that is by investing a bit of personal time into it.

Teams across all types of orgs are becoming powered by new capabilities, made available on a daily basis, by both new GenAIs, and as importantly, instruction on new ways to interact with these evolving AIs to generate practical, implementable ideas, insights and plans. Much of this instruction comes not from training companies of internal training departments, but from the scores of YouTubers and bloggers who freely share their insights.

And it's driving seismic shifts in how organisations can execute their goals, and also how they can spin-up new businesses. Cheaply.

Remember the old days (circa '22) when Corporates wanted to sprinkle themselves Startup stardust? That boom, which lasted for a few years, fuelled the unfulfilled dreams of Corporate Execs returning from management conferences, extolling the virtues of employing startup techniques and cultures across their complex matrices.

CUT TO: NOW.

Those same executives now got an upgrade to be able to take their businesses far beyond what the myths of startupdom were promising. At a tenth of the investment price.

Corporates and SMEs have access to super-charged capabilities at their fingertips (or voice commands), literally. GenAIs are seeping into orgs at all levels, and from all angles. Employees and teams are figuring out how to do their jobs faster and better, releasing capacity, and creating opportunities to elevate their own creativity to take on new tasks. Although, naturally it doesn't always work out so well. Some industries and functions are prime targets for massive workforce destruction.

But on the positive side, GenAI's are giving teams agency to explore as a function of their own creative application of these tools.

The Management teams, Finance, HR and Strategic functions, need to grasp the fact that in many instances their teams are in fact ahead of them in understanding how GenAIs can be capitalised upon. So they need to be figuring out how to secure continuous, compound improvements, and importantly, opportunities for employees and the business to flourish.

Organisations with existing customers and partnerships are sitting on a goldmine of abundant resource, if they can marry the enthusiasm and capabilities of their teams juiced-up on GenAI, with the financial targets and other strategic targets of the business. Of course, financial targets don't stay static for long. It's highly likely that expectations on revenue and profit will start to go north, once leaders and stakeholders/Boards/analysts figure out the potential yields of doing so much more with less. And we are just scratching the surface with autonomous GPTs (AutoGPT etc.).

Big orgs often have big, complex matrices. Previously teams evolved to try and cross-reference product lines with country dimensions and customer segments (phew!). This was, in theory, to provide management with the ability to optimise their businesses. In many instances this had the opposite effect, with matrix functions becoming bottlenecks, building up bureaucracy and business costs like geological sediment on steroids, jamming up the gears, and blanketing the direct line-of-sight between R&D/Product Development and the customer with a thick fog.

Now, much of this fog and sediment can be blown away, thanks to employee-powered agency, driving new productive and profitable activities, and compounded across the company.

One area to watch unfold in near-real time will be in the distribution and reselling of software.

Previously, there was a lot of cost as well as margin cannibalisation resulting from multiple transaction layers between a vendor and a customer. Huge matrix teams evolved just to manage distribution of products, which had a marginal cost of zero to reproduce (they are ones and zeros after all!). Now, those activities of distribution, tracking and support will bump up against the march of enterprise-level GenAI from all sides. It will be the responsibility of both the leadership and the employees to re-wire their capabilities, channelling them towards more profitable activities.

Naturally there are risks to be managed. And those risks are morphing at the same daily rate as new productive capabilities from the GenAIs are emerging. So of course, new skills and functions for managing this will evolve, mainly utilising AI to offset the impact of AI. As long as we can figure out the alignment challenge on an ongoing basis. But AI will apparently fix that too...

One of the biggest disruptions will be in the...er...market of disruption. Namely, the sacred practice of the Management Guru/Armchair General. For decades they have feasted on, and embellished, anecdotes from historical management successes and failures. It's been a highly profitable industry in its own right! How then, are these wizards of organisational wisdom to stay on top of the pace of change, and be able to profit from the era of GenAI? Surely we can't keep recycling the old stories about Ford's assembly lines, or the mobile phone industry's iPhone moment. Maybe ChatGPT will rescue them from being disrupted!

The other space up for grabs is the fabled MBA. There's definitely a market opportunity for radical re-GENAIeration. Imagine a management development programme/certification that has to constantly reconfigure itself, in real-time, in response to GenAI transforming the very business functions it is teaching. One area they could start to focus on now is...Agency. The agency of the employee, team, leader and organisation. The agency afforded by grasping the reins of GenAI. I'd sign up for that course.

One thing's for sure, someone's going to have to be responsible for generating new, attention-grabbing buzzwords.

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