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October 17, 2023

Successful deployment of new AI solutions will depend on business leaders uniting with their tech pioneers

The greatest resource for learning how to formally adapt generative AI to your company's workplace is often your own employees.

By Chanell Daniels

Successfully implementing effective and responsible generative AI technologies in your business can seem daunting. After all, just a year removed from the spectacular launch of ChatGPT, it’s not always clear how such models can be used to boost company-wide productivity in a safe and secure manner. 

In reality, weaving AI into corporate workflows can be a much easier process than many executives realise. Just as with any other technology, it is best to learn from those who have already deployed it themselves. By talking to other businesses that have been experimenting with generative AI throughout the year, and those staff within your own company who have been using it, too, CIOs can guarantee a much smoother and more beneficial deployment of such models throughout their organisation. 

Ensuring that AI adoption integrates into existing business realities is something that we champion at Digital Catapult. And I’ve seen first-hand how the businesses that effectively engage with these pioneers often experience the most success in the long term. 

A manager collaborating with her colleagues.
Making the effort to learn about the experience your staff have had with generative AI is vital when it comes to formally adapting it to your workplace, says Channell Daniels, Digital Catapult’s responsible AI manager. (Photo by Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock)

Leveraging employee-driven generative AI experiments

Businesses interested in weaving generative AI into their workflows should probably start by consulting their own staff who, statistics suggest, have already started doing so under their own steam. At the start of the year, research found that approximately four million workers in the UK had already used generative AI, a number that has doubtless risen since then. Another survey, meanwhile, discovered that 29% of desk workers in the UK are already using generative AI, while 52% claim to have deepened their reliance on the technology over time. Many of these employees, meanwhile, will have done so without being directed to do so by management. While this admittedly leads to the introduction of new risks to the business, it also demonstrates how seamlessly generative AI can, in fact, be integrated into the firm generally. 

Indeed, employee experiments with generative AI can provide concrete examples of potential application areas for senior management teams to consider before determining their priority investment areas. They’ve proved especially useful in shaping our BridgeAI programme, which Digital Catapult launched earlier this year to help companies accelerate their adoption of AI services. Crucially, they have helped participants understand how risks arising from the implementation of generative AI solutions can be defined and mitigated effectively without compromising the usefulness of any solution under consideration. 

Analysing employee experiences with generative AI has also led to new insights into how the technology impacts the different needs of staff members. This includes generative models helping staff better process information by having it explained in a format that aligns with their particular neurodiverse traits, or helping people to think through ideas and have them presented in ways that their colleagues find easier to comprehend. 

More broadly, increasing the accessibility of work through generative AI platforms will, in turn, allow businesses to tap into talent pools up and down the country that have long felt excluded from the workforce. Indeed, insight from pioneers in this area may well hold the key to boosting levels of productivity across the UK economy.

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Concrete benefits and mitigating risk: learning from technology pioneers 

BridgeAI is also helping businesses that have yet to implement generative AI solutions learn from those firms that already have. In many cases, we have found that the experiences of the latter have helped contextualise the specific benefits that AI could bring to their operations and their customers. In addition to bringing businesses together in this way, Digital Catapult also briefs BridgeAI participants on the latest innovations in the marketplace, to ensure that they remain informed about new opportunities and challenges emerging in the field.  

That comes with a strong recommendation that businesses create new structures to help accommodate generative AI in the workplace. While CIOs may be able to apprise themselves about all aspects of the technology, firms still need to create a safe space within their organisation to practically innovate with AI models, the better to identify what works for them as an enterprise and to tweak what doesn’t. That also means allowing staff to explain how they’ve been using generative AI in their daily jobs without fear of reprisal. This is particularly important if their working or lived experiences may have included challenges that others in the company may not know about. 

Above all, it is important for management and staff alike to remember that trying new generative AI products does not need to be a stressful or expensive process, let alone one conducted in isolation. Digital Catapult stands ready to assist any business looking to safely and effectively harness the opportunities afforded them by this new and exciting technology. 

Read more: Businesses must prepare for the quantum revolution

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