AI Task Framework: What I’d Outsource To AI And What I Wouldn’t.

This is the second post in a series of five on AI. In my last post, I introduced an AI task framework to be more intentional about why and how we use AI in our jobs, businesses, or organizations. In this post, I’ll give some examples based on my previous career as an ad copywriter.

AI Framework Template for AI Use Click on the image to download a PDF template.

As an ad copywriter, some everyday Tasks and Goals included:

  1. Fill out timesheets detailing what I worked on each day to bill time to clients and projects to get paid.
  2. Research a client’s business and industry to demonstrate knowledge of their unique challenges and opportunities.
  3. Create ideas for campaigns and individual ads to sell to a client and publish to help meet their marketing objectives.
  4. Write social media ad copy for social media marketing to generate engagement and conversions for a client.

(1.) I could see outsourcing my timesheets to AI.

I envision an AI assistant that Extracts (AI Function) file use logs from programs like Microsoft Word, Categorizes (AI Function) by job number, and Creates (Level of Thinking) a spreadsheet listing client, job, and time. I could review and adjust it before submitting.

After thinking of this AI outsource example, I discovered that Microsoft is adding this capability. Copilot for time entry creates time entries for team members without navigating through forms or filling details with dropdowns, generating first drafts for users to modify and confirm for timesheet submission.

The Level of Thinking in this example is Applying a process to Create a suggestion for my time entry (AI Capabilities). It doesn’t require creativity or imagination and I maintain final human judgment on accuracy (Distinctive Human Skill). By tracking job numbers no Copyrighted or Proprietary data is used. Human impact is positive. Everyone I knew hated doing timesheets. What we loved was coming up with ideas (Legal & Ethical Use).

(2.) AI could help with some aspects of client research.

AI could Answer Questions (AI Function) like “What are the current challenges and opportunities in the ice cream industry?” An open system like GPT would give me general answers based on open sources from the internet that may or may not be the most current, accurate, or relevant.

AI is Understanding (Level of Thinking) on a cursory level (AI Capability). To contextualize this understanding to your client and judge for accuracy (Distinctive Human Skill) you need proprietary data from paid databases like Mintel, your client, or your own research. Your personal experience with the client or industry is an added Distinctive Human Skill.

You could outsource this to AI by uploading proprietary data into an AI model Summarize and Ask Questions. (AI Function). But you’re uploading Copyrighted/Proprietary material without permission (Legal & Ethical Use). Mintel forbids input into AI systems and clients are adding AI restrictions to contracts to protect their data training LLM models a competitor could use.

Some are developing Closed AI versus Open AI systems that run locally storing data on their computers versus the cloud. The ad/PR agency network Publicis is investing in its own internal AI built on proprietary data. When available this could be a great way to quickly get up to speed on a business and industry.

How much I’d outsource depends on my previous experience. If it was a new client or market I was unfamiliar with I may worry how much I’d Understand (Level of Thinking) or Remember (Level of Thinking) if AI did it all. In an in-person meeting would I be able to recall or accurately contextualize information on the fly?

(3.) AI could help with some parts of idea generation.

I would outsource some brainstorming to AI, not idea formation, but AI could give me more material for ideas by Answering Questions (AI Function). Let’s say my client wants to sell water bottles to 25-34-year-olds. I could ask “What do 25-34-year-olds who work out look for in a water bottle?” and “What are current trends with 25-34-year-olds who work out?”

With these prompts, GPT via Copilot Created (Level of Thinking) a list of alternatives (AI capability). From the list, I put together a feature “one-hand operation” with a trend of “functional fitness.” Then I Asked for functional fitness examples. From that list, I put together a humorous image or video scene of a young woman easily sipping out of her Owala with one hand while swinging a heavy Kettlebell with the other. This formulated an original solution (Distinctive Human Skill).

Evaluating AI responses and knowing what to Ask (Level of Thinking) comes from knowledge of the client, problem, market, target, and trends to discern the best and identify AI hallucinations. I’d also use my domain expertise of what concepts are good Remembering (Level of Thinking) from my long-term memory of 17 years of creating ideas for clients (Distinctive Human Skill).

I wouldn’t have AI write ad copy or scripts directly. If it isn’t mostly Created by a human, it can’t be copyrighted to sell to your client or to protect them from use by competitors (Legal & Ethical Use). I’d also check my agency and client for specific restrictions on AI. Your Knowledge (Level of Thinking) of the client and humans (Distinctive Human Skill) is better at Creating (Level of Thinking) less generic more human copy and scripts.

(4.) AI could help in parts of social media campaign creation.

AI could help brainstorm content Answering (AI Function) “What kind of content do 25-34-year-olds who work out like to see on social media?” I’d Evaluate (Level of Thinking) AI’s best, most accurate suggestions (Distinctive Human Skill). One was “personal anecdotes.” It reminded me of an insight I read in a Mintel report about unused home workout equipment.

I combine this with the text “Peloton brings the motivation of a community to your home.” This gave me a visual idea of unused home workout equipment. I could mockup the social idea using AI to Generate (AI Function) the image. I’d ask “Create an image of an unused, dusty, stationary bike in a basement with a lonely looking guy” (Level of Thinking). This image would help me sell the idea to the client.

Generated with AI (DALL-E 3 via Copilot Designer ∙ June 25, 2024 at 1:33 PM

After approval, my art director and I would consider Copyright issues. Using AI-created artwork for commercial use is unsettled due to sources for training data. Adobe Firefly claimed to be copyright-compliant, but revelations about training data may put Firefly users at legal risk. A trusted photographer may be best to ensure compliance (Legal & Ethical Use).

We’d also consider that the medium sends a message. Does an artificial human and image support Petoton’s message of genuine human connection? I’d weigh the risk of uncanny valley. When tech gets too close to human people get an unsettled feeling. That creepy feeling can be transferred into negative feelings about the brand. Toys R Us and Under Armour have faced backlash for using AI generated video in this way (Legal & Ethical Use).

I also can’t help but think about the human impact. I’ve worked with so many talented creators who add to my ideas with their expertise. If we all decide to use AI instead, photographers, models, illustrators, designers, and writers lose their livelihoods. Levi’s faced a backlash after announcing they’d use AI generated models (Legal & Ethical Use).

Creating content variations (AI Capabilities) is a tedious part of social media. AI could help Generate (AI Function) variations to fit different platforms. I could ask “Write this copy ‘Peloton brings the motivation and community of a gym to the convenience of your home’ in 10 different ways.” I could also tell it to write to a specific length for each platform’s character limits. This type of AI outsourcing is happening. Meta Ad Manager is adding Text Variations and social media management software like Hootsuite with OwlyWriter AI.

Going through this AI task exercise makes me hopeful.

Breaking down my ad job into tasks and making intentional decisions on what to outsource to AI has made me hopeful. It reminds me of our human agency. It helps me visualize what Ethan Mollick describes in his book Co-Intelligence. Instead of replacing all human tasks, we can use AI as a Centaur (division of tasks) and a Cyborg (intertwined alternating subtasks).

Once you decide what tasks to outsource you need to know how to ask AI to get the best results. In my next post, I’ll dive deeper into prompt writing.

This Was Human Created Content!

Artificial Intelligence Use: A Framework For Determining What Tasks to Outsource To AI [Template].

AI Framework Template for AI Use
This is the first post in a series of five on AI. With any new technology, there are benefits and unintended consequences. Often the negative outcomes happen without thought or planning. We get caught up in the “new shiny object” mesmerized by its “magical capabilities.” That happened with social media. We can’t go back on that technology, but we are in the early stages of AI. In WIRED Rachel Botsman called for frameworks to do more to avoid the negative of tech developments.

Before jumping all in, ask, “What role should AI play in our tasks?”

Just because AI can do something doesn’t mean it is good or it should. AI’s capabilities are both exciting and frightening causing some to be all in and others to be all out. Being strategic takes more nuance. Be intentional about planning the role AI could and should play in your job or business with the AI Use Template below.
AI Framework Template for AI Use
Click the image to download a PDF template.

First, make a list of common tasks and the goal of each.

List tasks you perform in your job, on client projects, or in daily business operations. Then describe the goal of the task. Understanding the goal can help determine the human versus AI value in it. If the goal is to build a personal relationship with a customer or client, AI outsourcing may save time but undermine the task objective.

Recently a university outsourced their commencement speaker to an AI robot. Students started an unsuccessful petition for a speaker who could offer a “human connection.” The AI robot’s speech was described as weird and unmoving. Without any personal anecdotes, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports, “Sophia … delivered an amalgamation of lessons taken from other commencement speakers.”

Second, determine which type of AI Function each task requires.

The six AI functions (Generate, Extract, Summarize, Rewrite, Classify, Answer Questions) are modified from Christopher S. Penn’s AI Use Case Categories. Can the task be performed by one or multiple of these AI functions? If yes, you still want to consider how well AI can perform the function compared to a human and consider benefits that may be lost outsourcing to AI.

In my ad career clients often asked why a certain phrase or benefit was in the ad copy or ad script. Because I wrote it, I could explain it. It could be human insight from research (which AI can summarize), truths from lived experience, or talking with customers. If AI wrote the copy or script it may be missing and I wouldn’t know why AI wrote what it did. If you ask AI it often doesn’t know. Scientists call this the “unknowability” of how AI works.

Third, categorize the level of thinking each task entails.

The six levels of thinking (Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, Create) are modified from Oregon State’s Bloom’s Taxonomy Revisited. Bloom’s Taxonomy categorizes levels of thinking in the learning process. It was revisited to consider AI’s role. In each level determine the level of the task and discern AI’s capabilities versus distinctive human skills.

I had a student create a situation analysis of Spotify with ChatGPT. It was good at extracting information, summarizing, and suggesting alternatives (AI Capabilities of the Create Level). It wasn’t good at “Formulating original solutions, incorporating human judgment, and collaborating spontaneously” (Create Level Distinctive Human Skills). GPT’s recommendations lacked the nuanced understanding I’d expect from professionals or students.

Fourth, review the legal and ethical issues of outsourcing to AI.

Does the task require uploading copyrighted material? Are you able to copyright the output (copy/images) to sell to a client or protect it from competitor use? Does your employer or client permit using AI in this way? Are you sharing private or proprietary data (IP)? What’s the human impact? For some AI will take some tasks. For others, it could take their entire job.

Many companies are adding AI restrictions to contracts for agency partners. Samsung and other businesses are restricting certain AI use by employees. There’s concern about performance or customer data uploaded into AI systems training a model competitors could use. Some agencies and companies are developing Closed AI versus Open AI to run local AI storing data on local versus cloud servers. For a summary of main AI legal concerns see “The real costs of ChatGPT” by Mintz.

Fifth, employ human agency to produce desirable results.

We shouldn’t be resigned to undesirable outcomes because AI change is complex and happening quickly. Penn’s TRIPS Framework for AI Outsourcing includes “pleasantness.” The more Time consuming, Repetitive, less Important, less Pleasant tasks that have Sufficient data are better candidates for AI. Don’t give away your human agency. Decide on your own or influence others to save the good stuff for yourself.

A post on X (Twitter) by author Joanna Maciejewska struck a nerve going viral, “You know what the biggest problem with pushing all-things-AI is? Wrong Direction. I want AI to do my laundry and dishes so I can do art and writing, not for AI to do my art and writing so that I can do my laundry and dishes.” She later clarified that it wasn’t about actual laundry robots, “it’s about wishing that AI focused on taking away those tasks we hate and don’t enjoy instead of trying to take away what we love to do and what makes us human.”

Marketers are getting this message. In a survey of CMOs most are using AI for draft copy and images that are refined by humans. And over 70% are concerned about AI’s impact on creativity and brand voice.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and afraid of the AI future.

As Tech leaders sprint forward in an AI arms race and regulators woefully lag behind, the rest of us shouldn’t sit back and wait for our world to change. Unlike the Internet and social media, let’s be more intentional. Don’t fall prey to The Tradeoff Fallacy believing that to gain the benefits of AI we must give everything away.

In Co-Intelligence, Ethan Mollick says it’s important to keep the human in the loop. It’s not all-or-nothing. Some warn of a future when we don’t have choices in what role AI plays in our lives. It’s not the future. Today we can choose how to use AI in our professional, educational, and personal lives.

What keeps me hopeful is breaking my job and life down into tasks and making intentional decisions on what to outsource to AI. Using this framework allows me to get excited about the possibilities of AI taking over my least favorite or most time consuming tasks. In my next post, I’ll give some specific examples using this framework.

This Was Human Created Content!