Put More of You in Your Work

Here’s the obvious reason you shouldn’t use AI language models to write anything you care about: It’s not you.

I just asked ChatGPT to read a contract and make sense of it. It did a pretty good job I thought. And sure, you can ask AI to whip up some marketing copy, or a product description to fill some white noise on the web. But even if you use it in that instance, you’re missing an opportunity to really define your product or service from your point of view.

Take Kallo for instance. They make veggie cakes and cereals. Ok, there’s lots of similar products out there. Why buy Kallo? Well, maybe for this: on the packaging instead of a boring product description, you get a poem. Here’s one for their vegetable stock.

Out on the veg patch lived Audrey B. Hess, a ladybird private detective no less. Whether robbery, fraud or just small mis-demeanour, whatever the case, no crime fighter was keener. But Audrey’s good rep was affected quite harshly, when she and her bug friends were caught pinching parsley.

Or take Old Spice, the brand that almost died in your Grampa’s barn like a 70s Schwinn Bicycle. Old Spice reinvigorated their identity with some zesty branding. Now you get product descriptions like this:

Swagger Body Wash’s refreshing lather drop-kicks dirt and odor, does a clothesline on them, then slams them with a folding chair.

As our daughter’s high school English teacher put it: using AI to write your essay is like going to the gym and watching other people work out. Sure, if ChatGPT writes your paper, you might learn a tidbit about Mark Twain, but what do YOU have to say about Mark Twain?

Your best writing is the kind that delights you. When you’re writing a story, you’re telling yourself the story first. You are your first audience, and your best work is what you care about. It’s a little like that expression: dance like no one’s watching.

Almost twenty years ago, Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile and her colleagues conducted an interesting study. They asked 23 artists to randomly select 10 of their commissioned works and 10 of their non-commissioned works. That is, pick out 10 works of art that they were paid to create, and 10 works of art they created entirely on their own initiative for the sheer enjoyment of creating it.

Amabile and her colleagues took the 460 works of art to a big room where they could be displayed and evaluated by a team of art curators, historians, and experts. All of the experts evaluating the art had not been told which was commissioned (paid) art, and which art was created at the self-direction and initiation of the artist.

Amabile and her colleagues reported their findings:

“Our results were quite startling…the commissioned works were rated as significantly less creative than the non-commissioned works, yet they were not rated as different in technical quality.”

It was the non-commissioned, self-directed art that was found to be more creative, interesting, and valuable to the experts. Do more work you care about, and other people will also care.


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