October 16, 2023

ESOP CEOs Discuss Artificial Intelligence

Executive Director

Artificial Intelligence will change how businesses operate, but is its impact any different in an employee-owned company? The CEOs of the ESOP companies that participate in the NCEO’s CEO network discussed opportunities and threats, and this blog post extracts a few highlights from their confidential conversations. 

One CEO found that using generative AI helped quickly generate content that was not ready to share, but was 90% of the way to a final draft, or what another CEO described as the work of “a solid B student.” One participant noted that AI sometimes improved a draft analysis by raising ideas that the humans had overlooked. The ability to create a strong starting point meant that for that CEO, “ChatGPT has become the tool I use more than any other tool in my day-to-day work.”

One CEO noted that in their field, AI had proved to be consistently inaccurate. The CEO and staff of that company have decided that it is currently too risky to use to generate content, but also saw an opportunity to differentiate their company by pitching themselves to clients as a guard against faulty information from AI.

Another CEO said that AI can serve to improve customer service, not by replacing humans, but by shortening the amount of time needed to train them in the technical specifications of the company’s products. Their customers will always want to talk with a human, but the company can train the AI to find the right answers faster than it can train a human. 

AI boosts the productivity of employee-owners but does not eliminate the need for humans. The picture is not all rosy. Some categories of jobs will likely be profoundly changed or take far fewer human hours. Successful adoption of AI is a leap of faith into an uncertain future, and without a strong basis in trust, people throughout the organization may resist it. Employee-owned companies have a built-in advantage when it comes to building trust – the owners are not absentee, and everyone knows the success of the company will benefit all employee-owners. 

Most of the CEOs in the network either have or are drafting policies about use of AI by staff, especially to protect their intellectual property. 

Interested in joining a CEO network? We are actively recruiting for the 2024 CEO network and invite interested CEOs to complete the intake form.  We will reach out to determine the best days and times of the week to create the CEO cohorts.

Learn more about AI and employee ownership at our November 1 community conversation, Building Your Generative AI Roadmap.