Staying afloat as you navigate the AI revolution at work

A middle aged hispanic man sits at desk working on a computer. His desk and computer are located in the front of a wooden boat that is moving through stormy seas.

Your workscape is being disrupted, in ways that are seen and unseen, by a fast-moving Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution. As sovereign of your workscape – now is an important moment to understand what’s happening and what steps will take you forward in your own workscape.

With the ever-increasing presence of AI, work is being reshaped in ways we could scarcely imagine just a few years ago. In this article, consider what’s been happening in the recent past, why it should matter to you, what’s unfolding right now and in the near future, how capabilities are shifting, and most importantly, why it’s crucial to stay informed about and mindfully experiment with AI.

The Recent Past: A Quiet Revolution

Cast your mind back a decade, and the workplace was a different animal altogether. Routine tasks were just that, routine. Then, along came AI, quietly and insidiously, like an unexpected summer shower. It started to infiltrate our lives, from chatbots providing customer service to algorithms recommending our next binge-worthy Netflix series.

In the world of work, we witnessed the automation of repetitive tasks, liberating us from mundane chores. Data analysis, customer support, and even some aspects of creative content generation all began to fall under the purview of AI. It was the dawn of a new era, and we were at the cusp of something extraordinary.

Why Should You Care?

Now, you might be thinking, “Why should I care about AI? It’s just another tech buzzword.” But here’s the thing: AI is not just a buzzword; it’s a transformative force that’s reshaping the job market, and it affects every one of us, regardless of our profession.

AI is redefining job roles and skill sets. It’s automating tasks that were once considered the sole domain of humans. This shift has left some feeling uneasy about their job security, but it’s also created opportunities for those willing to adapt and evolve.

What’s Happening Right Now: The AI Revolution in Full Swing

Fast forward to the present, and AI is not so quiet anymore. It’s everywhere, from self-driving cars to virtual personal assistants. In the workplace, we see AI-driven chatbots handling customer inquiries, predictive analytics improving decision-making, and automation streamlining processes. Remote work and the gig economy have also gained momentum, accelerated by AI-driven platforms.

The increased reliance on AI has raised concerns about job displacement. Jobs that are highly repetitive and rule-based are at high risk of being automated. But before you panic, consider this: AI is also creating new job opportunities, beyond the direct obvious ones of AI development, maintenance, and ethical governance. A great example comes from IKEA who in 2021 introduced an AI bot they called Billie to handle routine customer inquiries. Rather the doing away with the call centre staff whose work was now handled by Billie, they retrained the staff to be interior designer advisors giving customers personalised consultations via phone and video. It has been so successful in how it enhanced customer service and ensured employee’s roles evolved alongside advancements in AI.

In the Near Future: Anticipating AI’s Impact

As we look ahead, it’s clear that AI’s role in the workplace will continue to expand. We can expect more advanced automation, improved natural language processing, and AI-driven decision support systems. This means that even more tasks will be automated, freeing up human workers to focus on higher-level responsibilities.

The future is already here, we just need to figure out a few details.”
~ Ethan Mollick

For individuals, this means that adaptability and continuous learning will become essential. Job roles will evolve, and acquiring digital skills and understanding AI will be mandatory. The ability to work alongside AI systems and harness their capabilities will be a valuable asset to not fall behind in the job market.

For knowledge workers, the sub-class of AI, known as Generative AI is a particularly important area to know about and develop skills in utilising. Generative AI is a type of computing technology that creates new content such as images, text, video and even music, by learning from examples of content that was previously created. Gen AI uses complex algorithms to understand and mimic the style and structure of the data it has been trained on, allowing it to generate original and creative outputs that resemble the examples it has seen.

Shifting Capabilities: What You Might Do Now and Next

So, what can you do to ride the AI wave rather than drown in it? Here are some practical steps:

1. Embrace Lifelong Learning: Stay curious and committed to learning. There are many free videos available on YouTube that focus on different aspects of AI to hone your digital skills. Regularly visit such sites to see the latest postings to keep up with industry trends. There are also AI courses on LinkedIn Learning – in particular I can recommend What is Generative AI? and courses created by Morten Rand-Hendriksen regarding using the tool ChatGPT from Open AI.

2. Cultivate Human-only Skills: While Generative AI can handle many technical tasks, skills like creativity, imagination and critical thinking remain uniquely human. Invest in developing and strengthening these skills to complement AI’s capabilities. Double-down on what it is to be human!

3. Collaborate with Generative AI: Don’t see Gen AI as a threat but as a tool. Learn to work alongside Gen AI tools to boost your productivity and decision-making. Understand how Gen AI can augment your role rather than replace it. Hint, one skill is how to Prompt (aka Prompt Engineering) or ask very specific questions or give task directions. You might be surprised by how much prompting you need to do to get the desired response from your Gen AI assistant. [Side note: I gave ChatGPT a 85 word prompt to write a first draft of this article.]

4. Experiment with AI tools and learn fast: There exists the potential right now to outsource the most annoying and time consuming parts of your job. I recommend Pi (by Inflection) or the very popular ChatGPT (by Open AI) as a place to start. You can get a free account to do some interesting things with both. You can start using PI without even making an account or even saying who you are … just in case that feels like a safer starting point.

As one commenter I follow says “The lesson is that just using AI will teach you how to use AI.” and “It is very cheap for you to experiment with tasks you are already doing every day, but it is much harder for other people to figure out how you can best use AI.” Quotes from Working with AI, by Ethan Mollick.

5. Network and Connect: Find others who are learning and experimenting. Extend your professional network to include AI enthusiasts and experts. Join AI-related forums and participate in discussions to stay updated and informed. The commentator I mentioned in the previous point is Ethan Mollick, a professor of management at Wharton, specialising in entrepreneurship and innovation. I get his weekly One Useful Thing newsletter and it has been very informative and inspiration to what I am learning to do.

6. Hone your discernment skills: Ethan Mollick states the situation well for why discernment is necessary. “The problem is that Gen AIs hallucinate, or make up plausible information, all the time. This is getting much better as technology improves, but it isn’t perfect yet. As a result, I have yet to see a single example of talk-to-your-data that does not sometimes result in the AI making up information. This is fine if the documents in question are suggestions or inspiration, but bad if you are trying to get accurate and detailed results from the AI about concepts scattered throughout the pages of multiple documents.” (c. Nov 2023)  In such situations, your critical thinking skills to be sceptical about what you read, and discern what might be factual, become incredibly important so that your work – even assisted by Gen AI – can be trustworthy.

7. Stay Ethically Aware: As AI continues to evolve, ethical matters become a serious consideration. Familiarise yourself with AI ethics and responsible AI practices. Two issues that have been raised that are ‘behind the scenes’ are the environmental costs of the vast amounts of power that generative AI systems consume, and the ‘digital sweatshops’ of workers in exploitative work in training AI tools.

Be an advocate for ethical AI use in your workplace, and start by being ethical in the choices you make for your own workscape. This could simply mean a careful consideration of what tasks you will use Gen AI for, and what tasks you will not; and being open and transparent when you have used Gen AI to assist you in your work.

8. Imagine and reflect: Take some time to consider what to do with time freed up from AI assisted work. This can be quite scary when we have been habitually working hard and long hours. It feels strange, even wrong, to do less. When you can work smarter, not harder – other things become possible, if you have taken the time to imagine what these could be and processed the emotions that come with such imaginings. Don’t let past patterns of behaviour prevent you from new possibilities!

Why It Matters: The Power of Knowledge

AI is not just a trend; it’s a transformation that’s reshaping all of our workscapes. Understanding AI and its implications is not just about job security; it’s about empowerment. Knowledge is the key to navigating this revolution and harnessing its potential.

By staying informed, adapting to changing job roles, and embracing AI as a collaborator rather than a competitor, you can ride the AI wave with confidence. The future may be uncertain, but one thing is clear: those who embrace AI and remain committed to learning will not just survive; they will thrive in the evolving workscape. So are you ready to ride the wave of AI-powered change?



Helen Palmer, founder of Self unLimited, is passionate about navigating the future of work and empowering individuals to adapt and thrive in their own workscapes. With a habit of lifelong learning, she draws from her own learnings to share about what others can do to respond to disruptive challenges like the AI revolution. Her work emphasises the importance of staying curious, embracing change, and making choices to enhance personal workscape satisfaction.


Image co-created by Helen Palmer and (a Gen AI tool for image generation) DALL·E