July 30, 2023




In this 8020Info Water Cooler we look at different aspects of using AI tools (and where to start), how to stop a habit of being late, why we should write things down, and some tips on why partnering strategies fail. Enjoy!

1. Where to Start with AI

Microsoft executive vice-president Christopher Young says every company, no matter the size or industry, should be thinking about artificial intelligence (AI).

In Harvard Business Review he writes:  “AI is moving from its auto-pilot phase —which was all about narrow, purpose-built tools that use machine-learning models to make predictions, recommendations, and automate— to its co-pilot phase, where there’s tremendous opportunity to revolutionize how just about everything gets done.

“Leaders who embrace AI now and take action to understand it, experiment with it, and envision how it can solve hard problems are going to run companies that thrive in an AI world.”

The same is probably true of non-profits, organizations like hospitals and universities, and governments. But where to start?

Experiment with the best way is to use it.

Popular AI applications are readily accessible, including generative language models like ChatGPT, DALL-E or Midjourney for images, or new AI-supported search tools like Bing.

“Try applying it to whatever task is in front of you and see what it’s good at and what it’s not. Use it to generate interview questions, write a memo, research and summarize a topic you want to learn more about, or get thought starters for a document,” he says.

Deploy for productivity.

Pay attention to repeatable, rules-based processes that AI can streamline, such as payroll or onboarding processes. “This is the driver behind an entire new category of AI software that can handle manual tasks and reshape scores of business processes,” he says.

Don’t just look at doing old things better.

How can you delight customers or clients by creating entirely new service and product lines and new streams of revenue?


2. Rethink Idea Generation in an AI World

Vancouver journalist Alexandra Samuels sees AI as an opportunity to rejuvenate the way we come up with ideas.

Workers once talked about the value of work as a place for social connection.  When many were forced to go remote, one complaint was that it led to reduced interaction with coworkers,  isolation, and weaker attachment to colleagues.

Still, many people find advantages in that state and want at least part of their working hours to be remote.

“And once you’ve relinquished your hold on the interpersonal delights of working life, and do more and more of your collaborative work over text, email and document sharing, how much do you really care if your invisible colleagues have human bodies?” she writes in JSTOR Daily.

“By diminishing the social function of work, the shift to hybrid and remote work has readied us for working with virtual AIs, rather than physical humans.”

Many people are burned out on virtual meetings yet are also leery of returning to the office for in-person interactions. She says it’s time to find another wellspring of innovation.

“AI offers us door #3: An always-on, nearly infinitely knowledgeable colleague who is happy to brainstorm or spitball on the subjects of your choice. So maybe it’s a little prone to spouting false info, but really, is that any different from the reliability of human colleagues?”

So as you experiment with AI possibilities, put the generation of creative ideas and solutions on the agenda.


3. Tips to Stop Being Late

One big step to curb a tendency of being late is to focus on transition activities like traffic, getting kids out of the house, parking and walking to the event.

“These are the mundane tasks that stealthily (yet all too consistently) throw off our estimates,” clinical psychologist Ellen Hendricksen writes in Psychology Today.

“Too often we look up the drive time on Google Maps and take the estimate as gold. Instead, consider bookending that estimate with extra time to find your kid’s other shoe and feed the parking meter. It seems obvious, but it’s not. Try it and watch your life change.”

She also recommends:

  • Beware “one more thing”: Often we’ll try to squeeze in one more thing than we should, like getting gas or checking email, which makes us late.
  • Beware of the notion that you can just do everything faster: That just creates stress and you’ll probably be late anyway.
  • Recognize that being early is often not a waste of time: When you’re deliberately early, you’re in charge, so you get to fill the time however you want.


4. Write This Down

Taking notes seems so simple and trivial a practice but consultant Tiago Forte says in his Forte Labs newsletter we don’t do it often enough. Here’s five reasons he gives to consistently write things down:

  • You preserve your best thinking and experiences for the long term so you can revisit and use them down the road.
  • You’re more likely to remember information.
  • You create new knowledge since writing it down triggers internal associations and further ideas.
  • You can get health benefits from translating emotions into words instead of keeping them bottled up inside.
  • You can set ideas aside and gain objectivity without the pressures of urgency.


5. Zingers

  • Productivity Challenges: Author Mark Manson suggests you try three things this week:  Seek out a productive conflict, seek out some productive anxiety, and seek out a little productive selfishness. Will the world end? He doubts it. (Source: MarkManson.net).
  • Listen to Your Clients: When we listen to our clients, we learn from them and we honour them, says consultant Donald Cooper. But he senses too many organizations, even relatively small ones, have lost that all-important connection with customers (or have stopped caring).  How much time do you spend listening to and learning from customers?  (Source: Donald Cooper.com).
  • Focus Meetings on Decisions: Executive coach Dan Rockwell says the goal of meetings is deciding, not discussing. Discussion is a means, not an end. Great meetings enable action. (Source: LeadershipFreak).
  • Inaction is Costly: Just because the cost of doing nothing is invisible, that does not mean it’s not real, says Farnam Street founder Shane Parrish. Action is expensive, but inaction costs a fortune. (Source: FS.blog).
  • Explain Attributes with Actions: Advertising consultant Roy H. Williams has a warning for us when core values include aspirational words that describe attributes rather than actions — the labels will be interpreted differently by different readers, regardless of any clarifications that might appear beneath those aspirational words. As well, lists of attributes rarely ring true in the hearts of employees.

Switch from aspiration labels to describing actions: Transparency becomes “we make only honest and accurate statements about our products”. Integrity becomes “we always follow through on our promises”.  (Source: MondayMorningMemo).


6. The List:  Where AI Writing Is Weak

Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, says generative AI has made it clear that writing matters more than ever. She also believes AI can help us increase marketing efficiencies, accelerate workflow, scale personalization, and craft personas.

But AI may not be your best bet for certain types of writing — in a recent webinar, How to Write Like the Robots Can’t, she listed 10 categories where AI writing can be “truly terrible”:

  • Providing context.
  • Using humour.
  • Creating metaphors.
  • News or current events.
  • Reliable facts.
  • Representing marginalized voices.
  • Writing with nuance.
  • Strategic thinking.
  • Anything we need to learn to be more valuable to ourselves long term.
  • And one last shortcoming where AI fails as a writer — getting drinks at the bar! 🙂

A related Ann Handley take on this theme can be found here.


7.  Around Our Water Cooler


Why Partnering Strategies Fail

More often than not these days, clients in our strategy development sessions want to consider opportunities to achieve their goals through strategic partnerships. Such collaborations are sometimes necessary and often attractive, but they should be considered first with great care.

Here’s how strategic partnerships can get stuck or break down:

  • Conflicting contexts and mandates: Do you and your potential partner(s) operate in environments compatible with your individual goals, roles, accountabilities, capabilities, cultures and timelines?
  • Can you define a clear charter for the collaboration process — one that establishes the purpose, scope, roles, authorities, boundaries, assumptions, constraints, commitments, communications and resource requirements?
  • Is there risk of being “joined at top but disconnected below”? What will happen when execution falls to middle managers or front-line staff who were not involved in negotiating or party to the agreement?
  • Misinterpretation across organizational cultures: How might your words and intentions mean different things in the language of a different organizational culture?
  • Will you have to settle for “lowest common denominator” options? Partner interests may diverge from time to time. Will you be able to negotiate attractive outcomes for all or will you have to accept mediocre results just to get past conflicts in the collaboration?
  • What about commitment/follow-through? Will your partner(s) make your project a priority for action? Or will their follow-through be “on the side of the desk”, soon buried by other day-to-day priorities?

You may have additional concerns about dynamics, personalities and control issues, but addressing the pitfalls noted on this checklist will certainly improve your strategy’s potential for success.


What We’re Reading:

  • Harvey’s Pick: Social psychologist Thomas Curran intends The Perfection Trap to be “a souvenir of solace from one perfectionist to another.” As that suggests, it’s a high-minded look at all aspects of perfectionism, from the societal expectations and allure that makes it so powerful, to practices that loosen its grip and how to raise your children so you don’t pass it on to them.
  • Rob’s Pick: The idea behind Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life is provocative. Author Luke Burgis suggests we don’t have our own independent desires — we only imitate what other people want, affecting the way we choose partners, friends, careers, clothes and vacation destinations. As we mirror what others value, this seductive gravity-like psychological effect shapes our identities, lives and societies.


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8020Info helps senior leadership teams and boards develop, clarify and build consensus behind strategic priorities. Our services support strategic planning and change processes, marketing communications and research / stakeholder consultations. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries.

8.  Closing Thought

“I am endlessly fascinated that playing football is considered a training ground for leadership, but raising children isn’t.”

Dee Dee Myers, White House Press Secretary to Bill Clinton