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Why Big Companies Are Struggling with AI Adoption—Even Microsoft

A leaked message suggests that Microsoft hasn’t quite nailed integrating AI into its own workforce.

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The Big Idea: Big Companies are struggling with AI adoption—even Microsoft

What’s that slightly nauseating maxim from product development—eat your own dog food?

A leaked message scooped up by Business Insider suggests that Microsoft, the company with a 49% stake in OpenAI that is unrolling a suite of AI Copilot tools, hasn’t quite nailed integrating AI into its own workforce. The expectation for Microsoft to lead by example in AI application is high, especially given its aggressive promotion of AI services to external customers.

They’re rolling out the products internally as they try to get more of their own developers to use AI. They’re doing hackathons. But the challenge they’re up against is a big one. And it’s similar, in some ways, to the difficulty of regular old digital transformation. It’s hard to get people to adopt new tools—plain and simple.

The issue is compounded by reporting from the Wall Street Journal which found that early Copilot users aren’t sure it’s worth the $30/month price tag.

Copilot uses essentially the same technology as ChatGPT to do things like summarize emails and meeting notes, generate text, and create documents in Word, Outlook and Teams. But it’s already been found to make mistakes in Excel and PowerPoint, which kind of defeats the purpose. An AI advisor at a16z posted a review on X, saying, “It's a mess and not anywhere close to adding value.”

Part of the problem with AI adoption more broadly might involve a twisty little bit of workplace psychology. As one founder explained on LinkedIn, the productivity gain from a $30 AI tool might actually feel more expensive than throwing human hours at a task—even if the human is paid $50 an hour. “People want to feel like they're creating value, which for some people means working harder as this feels like a greater contribution.”

In the short term, smaller companies will almost certainly have an easier time with AI adoption. They can create sandboxes where early adopters thrive.

Take the example of Katri Manninen, a PhD student in AI, who streamlined her schedule management by integrating ChatGPT 4 with Google Calendar, Airtable, Notion, and Todoist. Or there’s Accenture's CHRO who shared with Charter how AI can reduce the time required to prepare performance reviews—not to automate the entirely process, but to increase the quality of written feedback. At A.Team, we’ve seen members of our own marketing team building internal tools with custom GPTs to aid in sales enablement.

The workers who are going to thrive in an era of abundant AI tools will find a way to do so, whether their company subscribes to Copilot or not. These AI-powered Super Builders will stand out from the rest on productivity alone. We’ve already seen the potential for 10x output. How long before we see the first 100x worker?

One downside of companies bungling AI adoption and failing to create sandboxes for experimentation is missing out on the discovery of these 100x workers. Companies struggling with the change management aspect of AI adoption will need to refine their strategies to help identify and support their most innovative team members to lead the way.

Missed last week’s issueof Build Mode? Read it here.

CHART OF THE WEEK

OpenAI is developing a search product so Google shares took a dive

OpenAI is developing a search product so Google shares took a dive

Alphabet’s shares fall by as much as 3.8% on Thursday last week when a report came out that OpenAI is developing a search product. Here’s proof that Google’s formerly impenetrable moat might be at risk from new rivals.

The AI search engine could be a new feature for ChatGPT, or a potentially separate app altogether. Over 100 million people use ChatGPT every week, and that already seems to be eating into the number of people using Google for search.

The question is, how much can OpenAI carve away from Google’s two decades of search dominance. As Quartz pointed out, Perplexity has less than 40 employees but its search service is used by 10 million people every month. If such a small team can steal 10 million people from Google, imagine what OpenAI and Microsoft can do.

AROUND THE WATERCOOLER

OpenAI adopts the Microsoft playbook from the 90s

OpenAI unveiled their text to video tool, Sora, late last week, and anyone who has been working on a similar tool probably did a nervous gulp. (We’re looking at you, Runway.)

Commentators were quick to point out flaws in the physics but these critiques felt almost beside the point. The point is that OpenAI is going to make a very good version of every single AI tool with a large enough user base.

This is straight from the Microsoft playbook from the ‘90s, as Dan Balsam, Head of AI at Ripplematch and Build Mode Editorial Board member, pointed out: They’ve been using their dominance in the mind space to box competitors out of business.

Take agents. Companies like Adept and Rabbit have been working on similar tech for a while — but as soon as agents seemed to gain public interest, OpenAI started developing a competing product. Or two.

This is what you call an “overwhelmingly dominant market player.” In the ‘90s Microsoft aggressively destroyed competition by bundling software with Windows. Nobody could make competing word processor or spreadsheet tools. They almost won browsers if not for their own arrogance. Ultimately this practice had them face anti-monopoly charges due to its chilling effect on competition.

OpenAI looks to be doing the same: if they see a promising AI platform idea they take it and integrate it into ChatGPT.

BOOK LAUNCH

Here’s why people skills will be essential in the Age of AI

Wagner Denuzzo: Leading to Succeed Book

Gen Z workers should be learning leadership skills from the day the walk in the door.

That’s the provocative thesis of A.Team CxO and Build Mode Editorial Board member Wagner Denuzzo’s new book, Leading to Succeed.

“If everyone is a leader, the organization becomes a network of experts and contributors who come together to collectively lead innovation, build better solutions, and enjoy more emotionally connecting experiences.”

That last part is key to Denuzzo’s angle. His background is as a LSCW and he took a distinctly psychology-informed approach to his work as a transformation leader at companies like IBM and Prudential.

What does this mean for leaders? Sharing power. It’s a tall order. But as Denuzzo points out, “the success of cultural transformations will vary, depending on leaders’ willingness to take risks through experimenting and sharing power.”

As best-selling author Keith Ferrazzi put it, “this book provides the recipe for success in the new workplace and shares essential knowledge for the integration of emotional development and human behavior.”

Denuzzo will be signing books at our next Gen AI Salon on February 28.

Order Your Copy Here

EVENTS

Drive AI transformation without freaking out your workforce

If execs want their AI transformation initiatives to succeed, they first need to get buy in from their employees.

But there's a huge disconnect:

  1. 65% of US workers are worried that AI will take their jobs.
  2. Meanwhile, corporate execs are overwhelmingly optimistic about AI.

This disconnect is what happens when we don’t get the human element right, and it’s why most digital transformation efforts fail.

On Feb 28, A.Team is hosting an elite panel of CxOs, from companies like X, Instagram, Pepsi-co, and Prudential to reveal how to leverage AI to make your teams, culture, and organization stronger—all without freaking out your employees.

After the panel, you’ll have the opportunity to craft an AI plan that you can take with you and put into action.

We’ll be gathering at the A.Team Clubhouse in NYC from 5-8 PM with an invite-only group of founders, VCs, and C-suite executives from leading companies such as JPMC, TikTok, Vimeo, Baseten, and Huggingface. If you're not in New York, join virtually via livestream!

Sign Up to Attend

DISCOVERY ZONE

Suno generates AI music—with lyrics. Daniel Balsam asked it to write a rap song about a potato and it (sort of) worked! Listen here.

MEME OF THE WEEK

Apple Vision Meme

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