Artificial Intelligence Means Smaller Teams Doing More with Less Makes the Small Autonomous Teams Structure Even More Important 

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The artificial intelligence wave that we’ve seen hit the news is one step in a long line of innovations that technologists have been working on for years. And this technology, like other technologies, will not eliminate jobs in the way that people fear. Rather, it’s like electricity—it will enable people to do more and to be more capable at their jobs. 

AI doesn’t replace human creativity or human innovation. If anything, it empowers people to accomplish more with fewer resources. A Chat GPT written script is not a replacement for a human-written one, but rather a useful tool to make a human writer’s job easier, giving them access to more options in a faster amount of time. The same principle holds just as true in every arena of AI, from visual creativity to software engineering. The skill and human judgment that people bring to the table cannot be replaced. 

Because of this reality, the more that we incorporate AI technology into white collar workflows in large organizations, the more that it becomes important to lean into the work structures that make humans function at their best. That means small autonomous teams—yes, small teams even for large organizations. 

The Best Structure for Human Creativity 

People usually think about small autonomous teams in the context of start-ups and Silicon Valley software companies, but they’re tremendously useful for large organizations as well. 

Start-ups don’t have the luxury of overstaffing, or throwing people at a problem. They have to solve their problems as quickly and efficiently as possible. They have to be creative and resourceful because they’re resource constrained. Working in small teams makes sense in that context; it provides the best framework for human creativity to perform at its best. 

The structure makes sense for large organizations for the same reasons. A small group of people working together toward a common mission will always be more efficient than a large, sprawling department. The larger a group grows, the more resources it sucks up, the slower it moves, and the less efficient it becomes as it is forced to slow down to communicate internally. The more focused a team of great people empowered to act is, the more efficient the work becomes. 

Large organizations often forget how constrained resources can be beneficial because they’re abstracted from the impact of their decisions. By uniting responsibility for a small-scale mission with the day-to-day decisions associated with it, the enterprise can return to being nimble. Small groups function far more creatively—and use resources far more efficiently—than large ones do, even when resources are available. 

The Best Structure for Human Creativity 

Adding AI to effective teams allows them to do more. It allows small autonomous teams to remove more of the mundane, to automate everyday, repetitive work, so that they can focus on what humans do best: creativity, and innovation. Adding AI to large, lumbering team structures provides some benefit, but it fails to capture the human element; as individual contributors become farther and farther from everyday decisions, they are less and less able to bring the creative spark that only humans can bring. 

If anything, the AI revolution makes the small autonomous teams model more necessary. It will drive organizations, month by month, and year by year, towards smaller teams because of this reality. Automating boring, repetitive, route work can be a massive increase in productivity—but only if individual contributors sit within a structure that allows them to make an outsized impact on the missions they’ve been given. Otherwise the automation leads to more things rather than more business value. And it is the value that translates to the bottom line and to the customers continuing to come back, again and again. 

In a world where machines are able to contribute more, so should humans. And the small autonomous teams model empowers them to do exactly that. 

About the Author

Serial entrepreneur Brady Brim-DeForest is CEO of Formula.Monks, the technology solutions division of Media.Monks, which transforms the world’s most ambitious companies with AI. He has co-founded six successful startups, closed sales worth over $250 million, and helped global, monolithic organizations reorganize for innovation. An in-demand mentor, speaker, and writer on AI, innovation, entrepreneurship, and diversity, Brady has more than 20 years of experience in product design, brand strategy, and startup management. He is a Life Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, among others. He currently resides in Texas.

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