When Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, even experts didn't anticipate how the new technology would shape modern life. Yet, in hindsight, we can pinpoint the introduction of smartphones as a paradigm shift in the way human beings engage with one another and the world. For advocates of artificial intelligence, 2023 marks a similar turning point, the beginning of a period of exponential change catalyzed by a breakthrough in large language models, the machine learning technology behind ChatGPT and other generative AI.

Ron Gutman
Ron Gutman Ron Gutman

Ron Gutman, the entrepreneur behind healthcare company Intrivo Diagnostics, has long been interested in the potential of AI to improve human life. In 2017, he launched Dr. AI, a platform that uses AI to diagnose patients and direct them to appropriate treatment options.

And along with Stanford Medicine professor Aneel Chima, Gutman has developed a framework they call Sapient Leadership, an approach to leadership equipped to respond to a "new normal" in which change is perpetual, pervasive, and exponential. A framework designed to respond to this "three dimensional change" could be ideally suited to deal with the rapid advancements in, and adoption of, AI.

Leading in a fast-evolving, technology-saturated world requires collaboration, empathy, and the humility to learn from others. Sapient leaders are open to diverse perspectives and eschew the traditional top-down "leader as hero" approach to problem-solving.

As Gutman explained in an article outlining the framework, when change is exponential, leadership requires the power of shared wisdom to identify and respond to novel challenges.

"Nobody has enough knowledge, experience, and capabilities to understand or solve everything by themselves. When interviewed, the most accomplished leaders repeat similar premises for leading through a reality of constant change: listening, compassion, and caring At the end of the day, leaders would find it very challenging to lead and solve big problems alone if they don't deeply listen, empathize, and truly want to do good and then synthesize it all together."

Recent advancements in LLMs like GPT are emblematic of the three-dimensional change that sapient leadership is designed to address. The technology is improving at an exponential rate and will have a dramatic impact on a range of industries.

Managing this new age of AI will require a collaborative effort with input from diverse perspectives on the ethical issues and potential benefits of LLMs. In other words, it will require a sapient leadership approach to AI.

Large Language Models and Three-Dimensional Change

LLMs are AI systems that use deep learning techniques to process and analyze large amounts of language data. They're trained on vast datasets of text, ranging from Wikipedia articles and news articles to books, social media posts, and scientific research papers.

The training process for LLMs typically involves presenting the model with large amounts of text data and training it to predict the next word or sequence of words in a given text. Over time, the model becomes increasingly proficient at predicting language patterns and can generate new language that is coherent and meaningful.

There are myriad applications for the technology. It will no doubt be a catalyst for three dimensional change. To identify and improve these applications, leaders in AI and other industries should rely on the collaborative approach that Gutman and Chima's framework emphasizes, drawing from expertise and experience across a variety of fields.

The now-ubiquitous use of ChatGPT has demonstrated the use of LLMs for natural language processing systems such as chatbots, virtual assistants, and automated customer service agents. But there are several other potential applications that could drastically change how we learn and work.

LLMs are already changing the way teachers and students approach education. Students are using the technology to research and compose essays, and teachers can use LLMs to generate lesson plans and design courses. Leaders in education face the challenge of ensuring LLMs augment education and don't merely enable students' research and writing skills to atrophy.

In the healthcare space LLMs can be used to analyze large volumes of medical records and research papers, identifying patterns and relationships that could help to improve diagnosis and treatment. They could also assist in natural language processing of patient reports, notes, and audio recordings, which could save doctors a considerable amount of time. However, these systems aren't immune from making errors, and the medical community needs to collaborate to establish agreed-upon guidelines for their oversight and risk management.

These are just two of the many disruptive possibilities of widespread adoption of LLMs. Other applications include scientific research, legal practice, and marketing. There are very few "knowledge worker" jobs that will not be impacted in some way by LLMs in the coming years. This shift in the way we work and learn is a paradigmatic case of the three-dimensional change that Chima and Gutman are urging leaders to adapt to with a sapient leadership approach.

How Ron Gutman and Aneel Chima's Sapient Leadership Strategy Can Guide Usage of LLMs

Gutman and Chima outline four pillars of the sapient leadership approach, each of which can be applied to navigating the future of AI. These pillars comprise humility, authenticity, and openness; a collaborative environment of trust and psychological safety; continuously learning teams; and shared purpose and values.

Humility, authenticity, and openness are essential qualities for leaders who seek to build an organization in which individuals feel safe to try new ideas and share their perspective on a given problem. This sort of environment is critical for enabling ethical decision-making and the responsible use of LLMs, which can be prone to biases and manipulation.

Sapient leadership can foster a culture of transparency and accountability around the development and use of LLMs, ensuring that the technology is being used for the benefit of all stakeholders and not just a select few.

Trust and psychological safety are essential for empowering individuals and teams to take ownership of the ethical issues associated with LLMs. Individuals should feel that they can draw from their unique perspectives and experiences to raise concerns or suggest alternatives that might otherwise go unaddressed.

While it's easy to get drawn in by the hype surrounding AI, it's important to push on potential problem points such as biases and inaccuracies. Sapient leadership encourages individuals to be productively skeptical and voice their concerns, not just blindly follow a top-down plan.

Gutman and Chima emphasize the important role of continuous learning to sapient leadership. In terms of LLMs, it is necessary to stay up to date with the latest developments and best practices, which are constantly evolving. Leaders must understand how these systems work and what they can and can't do. For example, understanding what training set an LLM uses should inform the rigor of fact-checking its responses, as should the understanding that LLMs produce content based on prediction of language rather than semantic understanding of content. Approaching LLMs with a goal of continuous learning involves leaders continuously communicating with others working with the technology and adapting their understanding accordingly.

Finally, shared purpose and values are essential for maintaining focus, cohesion, and resilience during the 3-D change that LLMs bring. Sapient leadership should guide organizations to work together to achieve a shared vision of ethical and responsible use of LLMs. This will help foster a sense of community and belonging, which is especially important during times of change and uncertainty.