Image credits: Luca Bravo – Unsplash
You will notice that no one going into the fields of medicine, architecture, engineering, law, or space science, is asking that question. It is a given that hard sciences require knowledge and they progress and thrive on specialization. But this is somehow not deemed essential in the fields of business or academics. Yet running a business requires more than just a bright idea and hard work. Modern businesses are complex ecosystems that are multi-disciplinary, employ hundreds – if not thousands – of employees and contractors, both on-site and off-site. And they are quite often global in their operations. A workman assembling Ford’s Model T automobile in 1908 simply did not have, or need, the skill set required to produce the Ford Mustang today.
So what changed?
We all know the answer – technology! From the original Internet of the late sixties to today’s AI, technology has invaded and transformed every aspect of our life, the way we shop, the way we do business. And this was driven almost entirely by just two factors:
Economics. And skills.
The economics was fairly simple. If your mainframe computer, aided by robots and an automated assembly line could do the work of a thousand workers with more precision, or cheap labour in a third-world country could do the same thing at a third of the cost, economics won. Hundreds of thousands of blue collar workers and the towns they lived in, became irrelevant in the nineties. The people who had the skills to do what the robots could not, or indeed the skills to programme and control the robots, survived and thrived.
Into this explosive mix came OpenAI and its ChatGPT. It certainly has been the flavour of the month, and its earth-shattering impacts have received much media hyperbole. So what is ChatGPT? It is a small part of OpenAI’s overall quest to have computers replace humans as autonomous functioning entities. ChatGPT is a refined, artificial intelligence powered form of Google – except it doesn’t just find things for you – IT CREATES THEM. It is both exciting and scary.
Imagine doing a work presentation, or delivering a lecture at your student alumni, create a drawing, a floor plan, a poem or a song. ChatGPT will do it for you in minutes. It will go into its trillion of bytes of stored data at blazing speeds to find the references valid to the job you have given it, then assemble and frame the subject in a style that closely resembles your own. While this is impressive, in its present form ChatGPT is still in beta stage, so the level of sophistication it brings to the table is fairly high-school level. While it learns from existing information fed into it and from itself, it still cannot create new information.
At the University of Minnesota, ChatGPT managed to pass the law exam, but only with a C+ grade. For now.
So who does this impact? Ironically, if the first wave of tech progress led to more and more automation that impacted lower skilled blue collar jobs while protecting the tech savvy highly skilled professional class, the AI powered wave will impact the skilled, but data-centric middle management class the most – think accountants, legal assistants, research fellows in universities, artists and graphic designers, even teachers, authors and editors.
What ChatGPT cannot replace – at least in its current form – is the value add that experienced professionals bring to their jobs: the depths of knowledge, the variety of work experience and the lessons they have drawn from it, crisis management, innovation in processes and technology, the applications of behavioural psychology in managing human resources. As business and commerce becomes even more complex, its processes at once more fragmented and synergetic, the skill-sets required for each such process and sub-sector will get equally specialised. For people like these ChatGPT will become an intelligent tool that will save them from days and weeks of unnecessary reference and research work.
But to create that value-added specialisation for yourself, you still will need to go to medical or law school. Or a good business school and learn about capital formation, business structures, finance, corporate law, digital marketing, human resources and a host of related subjects. And then apply that knowledge to develop your own problem spotting and solving skills, identify process innovations and develop more specialised skills sets in yourself.
At SSBR we built our business model around this central concept: that your specialisation has to be developed around your areas of interest, and the skill sets you build from the knowledge you take in, have to be relevant to your current job – or the future job you aspire to!
In business just as in medicine or engineering, there is no substitute for knowledge, specially in this hyper-specialized marketplace. A 1000-bed hospital hires thousands of high-profile
management, marketing, finance, procurement and logistics professionals from the best schools – because their surgeons, trauma specialists, psychologists and nurses cannot do what they’re trained to do without this massive support system. A BA or BSc won’t get you past reception. But walk in there with a master’s or doctor’s degree in say, finance, with an in-depth dissertation on new ways to work on healthcare finance – researched, peer-reviewed and published. And backed with real-world experience. Then see the response!
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