Classics over coding? Skills to power success in the GenAI economy - Ascendion

Classics over coding? Skills to power success in the GenAI economy

Capturing value from generative AI will require the right skills to work with the bots

Ascendion December 11, 2023

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Ascendion
HFS
HFS Research

Study data and opinions, including those shared here by early adopters of generative AI, showcase a real optimism around applied GenAI. Paranoia and negativity don’t drive us forward, so being a tech optimist during disruption is a feature, not a bug.

But naïveté isn’t a good foundation for enterprise technology strategy. Business decision makers need the complete picture, so we asked our early GenAI superstars about what they consider hindrances to effective innovation.

Despite machines doing more and more, the top need they identified for GenAI success is humans-more specifically, human talent with the right skills (see Exhibit 1).

 

Invest in humanities to meet the GenAI talent gap

In our study (see Exhibit 2), 76% of early GenAI adopters ranked a lack of skills as the first or second top obstacle to deploying GenAI solutions. When we asked about conditions that would best support the effective deployment of GenAI, 83% ranked having sufficient talent skilled in Generative AI as a top enabler.

But which skills? What should our teams (and our kids and ourselves) invest in learning? This is one of our most interesting findings because the lowest-scoring skill sets were hard-core tech skills. The highest? Problem-solving, adaptability, and critical thinking. The list reads like a humanities curriculum.

 

Software eats software engineering

This focus on the humanities contradicts a lot of common assumptions about GenAI being “a tech thing.” A scant 6% of enterprise leaders feel that a lack of hard-core development skills will be a gating factor. Software is now eating software engineering.

Basic literacy in data and security will be a must-have for every job. Those skills are already necessary for millions of knowledge work jobs, but they will never go out of style, and their importance will only increase. As the technology matures and bots do more and more, what makes us human-our creativity, curiosity, empathy, ethics, and imagination-will become essential to getting the most out of GenAI.

Is this the end of software engineering? Quite the opposite. Software engineering will evolve rapidly as bots take over more basic, routine work. The best software pros will be worth even more because they are the engineers most acutely tuned into customer and worker experiences.

Make no mistake. Job postings for coding gigs that mediocre programmers can do will become as rare as those for switchboard operators or farriers.

The Bottom Line: Embrace the bots, but don’t under-value human skills.

We will need more creative writers, poets, anthropologists, designers, ethicists, and sociologists to help us embrace the bots. We’ll need people who can look at a process running the same way for decades (or longer) and ask-with a “beginner’s mind”-if we can do it differently with new tools.

One of the great ironies of digital transformation is that humans armed with a solid liberal arts foundation will be among the best suited to help our organizations leverage GenAI bots to unlock value, improve experiences, and create unimaginable new business models, companies, and jobs.

Bard, Claude, and ChatGPT are all amazing technologies, but we are still in the very early days of a shift that will take years to play out fully. Life will never be the same for those with the skills and desire to enhance their work with GenAI.

 

About this research

Your Generative Enterprise™ playbook for the future is a HFS Research and Ascendion research program based on more than 20 in-depth interviews and a survey of more than 100 C-suite leaders and practitioners with first-hand experience implementing GenAI in organizations.

Watch out for more, and join us on the journey at Ascendion and HFS Research to access all our research findings.

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