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My apologies. I know the title might be a bit deceiving. I don’t mean let employees “literally” break things.
Let me explain. I was recently facilitating a seminar on talent acquisition, and we got on the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) and ChatGPT. While several participants mentioned that they were being cautious and staying away from sites where AI is concerned – and I totally understand that – one person said that their company was encouraging them to “go break stuff”.
They went on to say that “breaking stuff” didn’t mean abandoning good business sense or putting the company’s data in jeopardy. They said that the company wanted them to explore and learn new things, so they weren’t afraid of new technologies. Breaking stuff was their way of saying go find ways to use it and start to get comfortable.
It reminded me of one of my early HR jobs. Our company had a human resources information system (HRIS) that was built by the internal technology team. So, when users (i.e., the HR department) wanted changes or updates, they contacted me. It was part of my job to pull these requests together and present them to the technology team.
Then the technology team would build the new feature and send it back to me for testing. I had a separate computer designed to do nothing but test new HRIS features. My job was to see if it worked the way users wanted but also to make sure there weren’t any glitches that could cause problems. For example, the system shouldn’t allow someone to make $1,000,000 per hour. Once the system was tested and working the way it should, then it could be rolled out to users.
There are lots of articles being published that AI represents the end of civilization as we know it. And on the other side, plenty of articles saying it’s the cure for everything. I don’t want to dismiss either of these views. My guess is that the real answer is somewhere in between. But I do know this, technology isn’t going away. We need to understand how it works. The way we discover its capabilities is by experimenting (aka “breaking stuff”).
Keep in mind this is also a great way for employees to learn. The process of testing and experimentation involves critical thinking, logic, analysis, process improvement, communication, and much more.
If you’re an organization wanting to stay competitive and believe technologies might help you do that, maybe creating a “lab” environment to test new things makes sense. And if you’re an employee looking for new ways to learn and build skills, maybe being a part of a team that’s testing new technology would be a good opportunity.
Organizations and individuals need to find ways to learn about new things. They need to be curious. There’s an old saying that the most dangerous six words in business are “We’ve always done it that way.” It’s true. If we want to continue delivering value, we need to be willing to “break things” every once in a while.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Fort Lauderdale, FL48