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Is GenAI your Intern, Mentor, or Personal Assistant?

There are a number of opinions on how you should think about Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) tools entering the workplace. Some refer to GenAI as an intern, others a mentor, and some sell it as a personal assistant (PA)! I looked at all three views and provided my take from a project manager’s perspective.

AI interns paint a good picture!

Tim Creasey, Prosci Chief Innovation Officer, likens thinking about GenAI prompting to working with an intern. He shared his mental model for engaging what he calls "my AI intern" by breaking down the process into three main components: defining the output, choosing the palette/paint, and making the brush strokes.

robot painting a pictureFirst, defining the output involves envisioning the final product you aim to create with your AI intern. This is akin to having a clear picture of your end goal or the final canvas you want to paint. By having a vivid and detailed vision of the end result, you can better guide your AI intern toward producing the desired outcome.

Next, choosing the palette or paint means providing rich details and context to your AI intern. Just as a painter needs a variety of colors and hues to create a masterpiece, your AI intern requires a comprehensive set of information and context to generate high-quality responses. The more enriching the details you provide, the more nuanced and sophisticated the AI's output will be.

Lastly, the brush strokes refer to the prompts you give to the AI intern. Creasey emphasizes that prompts should be thought of in the plural form, as creating a satisfactory output is a process that involves multiple interactions. It's essential to be very clear and specific with your AI intern, inspect what you are expecting, and provide feedback.

In my estimation, this iterative process allows you to refine the AI's responses progressively. By offering precise and constructive feedback, you can guide the AI intern closer to what you are looking to create.

Does GenAI really mentor you?

During the PMIXPO 2024, we heard several presenters refer to GenAI as their mentor. GenAI can guide you through new areas of expertise and knowledge can quickly be gained. However, I question how effective this mentor is when, as the student, you may not be aware or realize you are using incorrect information output based on prompts you think are accurate. 

For example, recently, when prompting PMI Infinity, an AI-powered resource for project managers, I had a typo in my prompt. I asked PMI Infinity, “what is a RAIC?” The output I received was for a RAID framework. Learning new technology is tricky enough without typos, did I mean RAID (Risks, Actions, Issues, Decisions) or was I referring to RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed)? How can AI mentor the learner, and guide them to the correct information if the prompt is incorrect? Perhaps it can’t. Here is where we need to understand that the student or learner should have some insight and/or knowledge about what they are asking AI to do. At the very least, the learner must have a plan in place to review and evaluate the output to check for accuracy and validity. Perhaps AI is mentoring users by guiding them to educate themselves on a particular topic or subject. My constant flipping of letters is a whole other issue, and maybe GenAI will learn to flip me back some day.

robot serving coffeeWe can all use a personal assistant!

Alternatively, Microsoft CoPilot is referred to as your personal assistant. What project manager couldn’t use a personal assistant when you are drowning in emails, spend countless hours drafting meeting minutes, and capturing endless action items in RAID logs? Based on my recent experience, using the tool to create email or PowerPoint first drafts, or using it to summarize communications across several platforms (especially providing summarized notes during a Teams meeting), it definitely has the qualities of a good PA.

Final thoughts…

So, what is GenAI to project managers? Is it an intern, a mentor, or a PA? I believe it is none of these until you learn to incorporate GenAI into your daily routines and ways of working. We need training to become effective at directing or prompting our GenAI tools to learn how they respond in different situations. We need to seek and find opportunities to understand how we can apply this technology to our day-to-day routines. 

On a personal side note, it will be interesting to me to see if people begin to assign GenAI pet names like we do with everyday household items and cars. I call my robot vacuum cleaner "Molly", and my pool cleaner "Polly". I’m calling my GenAI PA “PixieWand”, as the outcome and experience feels magical when I prompt correctly. It’s as if my fairy godmother waived her magic wand to grant my every wish.
Reach out to Avaap if you are interested in changing your behaviors and ways of working. We can help you build a roadmap to incorporate GenAI into your workplace and guide your change implementation. Or maybe you need some fun, creative ideas to name your new PA — we can do that too! 
Katie Jeffries, MBA, PMP, CSM, PCCP is a Principal Consultant with Avaap. Katie has more than two decades of project management experience and change management experience in healthcare, education, and business operations. During recent engagements, she has focused on ways of working in the digital world using GenAI.