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ChatGPT: What it means for your business

From increased productivity to overall competitiveness, entrepreneurs should probably get comfortable with AI

7-minute read

It seems like everyone these days is talking about ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot developed by Open AI, a San Francisco research laboratory. Released in November 2022, it reached over 100 million users in its first two months, making it the fastest-growing online application ever made.

So, what’s the fuss all about? Unlike other natural language processing technologies, like the voice assistant in your phone, ChatGPT goes far beyond simple commands such as playing music, looking up facts, or controlling smart devices. Its extensive training on a wide variety of sources and its continuous learning from user questions allow it to provide more sophisticated and personalized answers. It’s also different from a search engine like Google, which uses algorithms that index and rank websites to provide results to questions.

What really sets ChatGPT apart is that it’s constantly learning and being fine-tuned, so its accuracy is improving at an incredible speed. This is partly due to the learning capacity of the technology on which it was built and partly due to human feedback.

What kind of impact could ChatGPT have on entrepreneurs?

Canadian businesses are facing rising costs and difficulty finding labour. The latest figures from Statistics Canada indicate there were close to 900,000 job vacancies in Canada, and things will only get worse over the next decade as more aging workers retire.

Our research shows the best way to offset these challenges is by investing in technology and automation. Technology can’t always replace people, but it can help reduce repetitive or administrative tasks that take time so your employees can focus on tasks that add value for clients.

ChatGPT is a new digital tool that could help entrepreneurs partially automate certain tasks. Instead of spending hours doing research or drafting content, you can ask a few questions and get a good first output that can then be validated and refined.

But this technology has been advancing rapidly and we are still not certain of its full potential. AI chatbots like ChatGPT could end up being much more than productivity tools. They may change how certain jobs are done or even force entire industries to evolve.

This has happened before. The Web changed the travel industry, for instance. People can now book their own airline tickets and hotels and only go to travel agents when they want more personalized recommendations. Travel agents are being consulted for their expertise more than for the administrative task of booking reservations.

AI tools like ChatGPT could have a similar impact on a variety of positions, such as those involving coding, analysis, research, content creation, product design, art, music and more, reducing upfront time so people can focus on review and fine-tuning. This could make a large difference in an age of labour shortages and rising costs.

In fact, there has been a rush to acquire companies with technology like ChatGPT. All sorts of businesses, from accounting to engineering firms, are aggressively going after AI companies.

AI is here to stay and it will impact every facet of society—small and medium businesses included. Take time to learn about ChatGPT and consider the ways it could help your business in the future.

What have past “technological revolutions” taught us?

These rapid developments feel a lot like the Wild West of the 1990s when the public first started using the Internet to create websites and share information. People were just discovering its capabilities and how to work with it. They eventually realized that laws and regulations needed to be established to protect users, which is why those concerns are now being raised with ChatGPT.

On the other hand, the Internet also showed us the importance of embracing new technology or risk being left behind.

Selling online is a perfect example. Before the general availability of the Internet, businesses were limited by their geographic location. Those that went online, quickly expanded their territory without investing a lot of resources to open new locations. Whether selling to consumers or other businesses, the internet made it possible for smaller companies to reach customers around the world.

But some companies resisted this evolution and continued to operate offline. Unfortunately, many of these businesses disappeared when the pandemic hit because they were not ready to do business in a virtual world.

We need to keep lessons of the past in mind as AI gains capabilities and momentum—eventually, we need to adopt innovations to remain competitive.

Adopt with caution

All of this being said, it’s important to approach ChatGPT with caution. The technology is new and people are still getting to know its limitations. OpenAI has faced backlash from governments, institutions and experts on a range of concerns.

  • Data privacy—The tool systematically combs the Internet for content, which includes personal information obtained without consent. It also stores all chats, which could include personal details or private business data inadvertently shared by users.
  • Lack of recourse—At the moment, OpenAI does not offer a formal procedure for individuals to check if their personal data is stored or to request that it be removed. However, the company has stated that it tries to remove personal data that has been flagged to them by individuals.
  • Misinformation—The chatbot mostly generates a response based on information it gets from the Internet, which is not always accurate. It has also been shown to make up facts when asked for information it doesn’t have.
  • Deepfakes—AI like ChatGPT has made it easier than ever to simulate someone’s voice and generate live, lifelike phone conversations with an imposter.
  • Criminal activity—ChatGPT has also made it easier for fraudsters to generate convincing spam and phishing emails. There are many fake ChatGPT web pages and apps with similar branding that infect users’ devices with malware and then steal personal data—it’s very important that you go directly to the OpenAI site to use the tool.

Following a ban on ChatGPT in Italy and increasing scrutiny from other countries, OpenAI recently published a blog post explaining its approach to safety and pledging to enhance precautions moving forward.

We advise entrepreneurs to experiment with the tool more informally until proper safeguards and regulations are established.

It should be a matter of time before these issues are addressed and AI becomes part of our daily lives. This is a good time to play with ChatGPT and get used to how it works, while being careful not to share any personal information.

How to introduce ChatGPT in your business

ChatGPT is quickly gaining traction and could be ready for widespread use in businesses within the next year or two. We recommend you follow these steps to prepare:

1. Determine how your business can use it

As a first step, look at your activities and identify where the tool can help them. This is less about the industry in which you operate and more about the tasks people in your business complete. For example, ChatGPT may be able to help your employees with the following tasks:

  • drafting job descriptions to support your recruitment efforts
  • providing or correcting code to speed up your web or software development
  • writing blog posts to facilitate content creation
  • summarizing research on a specific topic

2. Identify what data you can get from it

Once you’ve identified specific activities ChatGPT could help you with, narrow down what data you hope to generate with the tool.

If there’s a lot of information on the Web for what you’re searching, then you can probably get a good response from ChatGPT. But it isn’t so good for research on a very niche industry or content on an obscure topic.

3. Ensure you have the right people to use it

The answers you get from ChatGPT will need to be vetted by the right person. Sometimes, you will need to refine your question to generate a more focused and useful answer. Other times, you will need to adjust the output based on your particular needs or to ensure its accuracy.

For example, if ChatGPT is generating terms and conditions for a contest you’re having, you need someone knowledgeable to review and edit that text—otherwise, you may be held accountable for things you hadn’t intended to write.

It’s not too early to start talking about this with your employees. They can help you identify activities in your business where ChatGPT could help in the future. It’s also a good opportunity for you to set guidelines on using the tool responsibly.

The technology is moving quickly

ChatGPT can now be integrated as a plugin to optimize other software—in Microsoft Teams, for example, where it powers the “Answer Questions” feature. However, you should ensure you have the right people handling the integration of these features into your systems. Otherwise, you could open yourself up to cyberattacks and other security issues.

It’s early days, but things are moving fast. OpenAI released version 4 just a few months after version 3.5 and it is 10 times more advanced. Version 4 is better able to understand context, distinguish nuance, and solve complex problems.

AI is here to stay and it will impact every facet of society—small and medium businesses included. Take time to learn about ChatGPT and consider the ways it could help your business in the future—especially at a time when you will likely need to do more with fewer resources.

Next step

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