"Just add generative" to innovate?

A quick mental exercise to expand thinking about AI
November 21, 2023

I sometimes tell people to "just add generative" to innovate. No, I'm not talking about AI-washing everything to make it a cool product. I'm talking about a quick mental exercise to expand thinking—I often use this prompt to expand thinking within business audiences that are narrowly focused on immediate automation gains but not seeing the new-paradigm value of AI.

Visionaries have long understood the power of language in shaping our perception of the world. By using a simple modifier word, they can introduce new paradigms and extend familiar concepts, igniting transformative thinking. One classic example that exemplifies this is the "horseless carriage."

The term "horseless carriage" revolutionized the way people thought about transportation. By combining the familiar concept of a carriage with the modifier "horseless," it sparked a paradigm shift that paved the way for the invention of automobiles. This simple linguistic twist opened up a world of possibilities and challenged the prevailing belief that horses were an essential component of transportation.

Some of the original horseless carriages were too scary for humans and other horses—so they had a fake horse on the front!

Steve Jobs & Apple did this many times: the iMac, the iPhone—the "i" could be for internet (or intelligent), and ended up becoming nearly synonymous with Apple, combining the "excitement of the internet with the simplicity of the internet."

The original iMac. (Wikipedia)

Inspired by these examples, we can harness the power of the 'horseless carriage' concept to prompt new ways of thinking and drive innovation in various domains. Just as "driverless cars" and "digital wallets" have reshaped our understanding of transportation and finance, we can apply this approach to other areas of our lives.

How does adding "generative" before something expand your thinking? For example, we know what education is, but what's generative education? It might be using generative AI to expand the concepts of a class to many more contexts and examples. Keep going—it might be using generative AI to provide a tutor for every student.

What is 'generative customer service?' 'Generative investment?' If 'generative' isn't prompting new, good ideas, try 'AI' or 'augmented.' The point isn't to create buzzwords, but to reframe our thinking enough that we can let go of or unlearn limiting beliefs of pre-AI thinking, without immediately jumping just to automation, which is just one way of thinking about AI.

Try it out with your discussions, and let me know what you think.

Read more about unlearning and the horseless carriage in our article on the same, or join the AI Explorer's Forum to dive deeper.

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