I am really worried that my company is going to replace my entire team of graphic artists with AI. What can I say to people who have spent decades to get really good at their craft only to see themselves replaced by technology?
I am literally losing sleep over this. I would appreciate your thoughts.
Dear Losing Sleep,
Boy, do I get it. I am old enough to remember seeing the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey in which the Heuristically Programmed Algorithmic computer (HAL) famously takes over the spaceship. It made a huge impact on me.
Have you asked ChatGPT? I did, and the answer was pretty good! The first four suggestions were almost exactly what I might have proposed. What AI did not do is add the color commentary that I will.
- Stay Informed – on this one, AI did not suggest, but I do, that you talk to your boss and listen to what is happening through the grapevine to gauge how realistic your concerns are. Are other jobs in the company being replaced by AI? Is there an overall intention and strategy to replace humans with AI? The more you know, the better you can prepare for what is coming.
- Encourage Your People to Develop Their Skills – The people who can bring something to the table that AI cannot (yet) are the ones who will keep their jobs. With graphic design in particular, I would imagine that those individuals who can ask the right questions and hone in on exactly the feel that is desired will be irreplaceable. The ability to create fresh, new, and original work will be valued.
- Foster Continuous Learning – Identify things that only humans can do and help people find ways to get better at them. Problem solving and devising new ways to express things will be in demand.
- Cultivate a Practice of Flexibility and Adaptability – In our industry, we have often expressed the constant change people have to deal with as “the cheese has moved,” based on Spencer Johnson’s book Who Moved My Cheese. The pace of change has been a challenge for the last couple of decades, and it appears that it is only speeding up. Those who can find a way to build their resilience and roll with change will have a much higher quality of life. The question, of course, is how?
Neuroscience research shows that the brain is a predication machine and is much more comfortable with certainty. However, experience shows that nothing is ever certain, so we can predict all we want but we can’t ever be sure what is going to happen next. The best advice I ever heard on this topic came from Ben Zander, the co-author of The Art of Possibility. Best known for being a charismatic and brilliant conductor, he is also a wonderful and very entertaining speaker. Ben suggested that instead of giving into our impulse to panic when the unexpected pops up, we should stop, take a breath, observe, and say to ourselves “how fascinating!” Essentially, he encourages us to be curious—to engage in whatever is happening with an attitude of inquiry.
So. Losing sleep is not going to help you now. Read up. Talk to people in your company. Listen to podcasts. Get informed. Get curious, stay curious, and encourage curiosity in your people. They are artists, so by definition they must be creative. You might lead with the question “What can we create in this new paradigm?”
I am going to try to follow this advice myself, believe me. And I will admit the whole thing scares me too. I’ve spent the last twenty years getting better at writing only to find that nobody reads anymore. There are some who are concerned that my entire industry might be replaced by AI.
I really think the only way to deal with today’s world is to keep growing, learning, and changing ourselves. It isn’t comfortable for most of us, and it isn’t easy. As a leader, you can choose to be a role model for your people.
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response soon. Please be advised that although she will do her best, Madeleine cannot respond to each letter personally. Letters will be edited for clarity and length.
About the AuthorFollow on Twitter More Content by Madeleine Homan Blanchard