A temptation is commonly referred to as the desire or wish to do or have something you know you should not do or have. Temptations are ubiquitous, and the list is unimaginably long, ranging from foods we shouldn’t eat to behaviors we shouldn’t exhibit. Surely, anyone can quickly engage in self-reflection and name a handful of temptations they might call their own.
ChatGPT and related artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are simply presenting us with yet another temptation.
It will be interesting to see how many temptations it will present to us and how well we’ll respond as people, teams, leaders, companies, and even communities.
How well will we navigate the obvious challenges, such as plagiarism, and the more subtle challenges, like relying on AI to think for us?
I’m contemplating this as we’re building out a series of essays, briefs, and guides about leadership, coaching, career development, and organization building. We have hundreds of topics we intend to write about and share with the world. It’s a huge effort in which we’ve invested thousands of hours… and will likely never stop. It’s part of our infinite game. It’s part of how we intend to improve the world. It’s part of how we intend to matter.
And AI is NOT a part of the process for us.
The fact is, writing is hard, especially when creating unique and useful work. It demands we know what we’re writing about. It demands we write content that goes beyond useful, the kind of content that is interesting and inspiring. A good writing process reveals what you know and don’t know. A good writing process helps you think. So, for all those reasons, AI is not a temptation for our particular efforts.
It’s more important for us to work hard at creating the kind of content that’s not only worthy of our readers’ time today, but is likely to stand the test of time, as well. And that’s a test AI has not yet passed.
Allow me to share a flashback: My first job after college was with a large bank. While I graduated with honors from a very good school, I swiftly learned I wasn’t a very good writer. My writing exposed what I knew and what I didn’t know. I came to believe that my continued employment and career progression were both entirely dependent on the effectiveness of my writing. Not just how well I wrote or how well I understood the subject, but how well I made my case.
Today, I write almost every day. I write because I want to share ideas while ensuring I understand them better. I write to understand, to lead, and to coach. Entrepreneur and essayist Paul Graham shared something similar in his piece “How to Write Usefully”: “A good writer doesn’t just think, and then write down what he thought, as a sort of transcript. A good writer will almost always discover new things in the process of writing.”
Writing is actually a core part of our company’s origin story. In 2005, I started writing a book called Connecting the Dots. I felt compelled to write the book because I was frustrated with sitting on the boards of companies that were, in my opinion, not nearly as well run as they needed to be if they were going to turn into a decent investment. My frustration stemmed from the fact that not only did I keep seeing the same glaring issues in every company, but my coaching wasn’t paying off for me. Candidly, I wasn’t sure if it was me or them… so I thought maybe a book would help.
But that’s not the punchline. The punchline is I struggled with the book and then discovered a similar book that was much better written than what I would have written. That book is Traction by Gino Wickman. One of Gino’s superpowers is his ability to capture the hearts and minds of his readers by compressing ideas and conveying the essence of things both simply and powerfully.
If you’ve read any of my prior pieces, you may recall I deeply believe we’re moving into a new age of work. More specifically, I believe we’re moving from the Age of Information, which I refer to as Work 7.0, to the Age of Understanding (or Work 8.0), and that someday we will move to the Age of Actualization. Yes, Work 9.0. Now, nearly two decades after my first effort, I’m nearing completion of a book called Work 9.0 that I hope to have out later this year. If you want a preview of sorts, check out our Ninety guide on this very topic.
One of the reasons I’m writing Work 9.0 stems from my belief that we’re overloaded with information these days, and there is a deep, unfulfilled desire within virtually every society to find useful information inside all the noise. We’re collectively yearning to understand the moment we’re in and affiliate ourselves with people we trust across its three associated dimensions: character, competency, and connection. To me, it seems what we need right now is not artificial intelligence, but useful intelligence.
I’ve written all of the above because it’s going to be tempting for the average person or the average organization to outsource elements of their critical thinking and writing. I think there will be those who lean on AI and lose the strength of their own unique view and originality. And if you haven’t figured this out already, I think that will eventually prove to be a huge mistake for those who do.
Many things can be done by tools that write for you, but they won’t help you learn to think, understand, or convey problems or solutions with deep fluency. And you need relatively deep fluency to lead and to solve problems. You need a certain level of fluency to matter and to create long-term value. You need fluency to build and sustain trust.
AI will tempt people to outsource their thinking. Don’t. I’m confident the future will disproportionately reward those who build high-trust relationships with their stakeholders. In Work 8.0 and Work 9.0, clear and useful thinking will become more valuable, not less.