To realise the value of GenAI it's not enough to create experiences that build adoption. Organizations should also focus on developing a GenAI mindset.

Many of our clients are taking an experiential approach to GenAI adoption, which is great. They're giving people things to do to try out GenAI tools. Other clients are more conservative. Some are even hesitant to run adoption programs. They fear that, because the technology is changing so fast, their efforts will quickly become obsolete. Both camps are exposed by the same weakness, though. Across the board, for the early and later adopters, there's a notable lack of focus on developing a GenAI mindset. And, without deliberately fostering this mindset, there's a risk that they won't cash in on the value of any GenAI investments.

I'd like to explore some aspects of what we consider to be a GenAI mindset. That is, a set of inclinations that make someone likely to improve their productivity with GenAI tools. As we see it, such a person would be:

  • Willing to experiment with GenAI tools
  • Curious about observing results
  • Non-judgmental in observing results from a creative perspective
  • Judgmental in evaluating results from a critical perspective
  • Willing to iterate prompts in response to GenAI output to achieve better results with each successive approximation
  • Committed to retaining and organizing prompts and findings
  • Committed to using GenAI tools ethically


So, what should you do to help shape the mindset that improves a person's inclination to use these tools productively? The answer lies in how you address these three questions:

  1. What are you drawing people's attention to?
  2. How are they paying attention to what you want them to notice?
  3. How often are they paying attention to the things you want them to notice?


To illustrate how you can use these questions to influence mindset, please indulge me for a moment as I take you back to 2002. Let me tell you about one of the most impactful mindset development projects we've ever created.


In 2002, we created a learning program designed to develop an entrepreneurial mindset in Grade 5 learners. The program was called LookOut!, and it focused in particular on an opportunity-seeking mindset. This is one of the attributes that sets entrepreneurs apart from others: the inclination to see opportunity in a given context. It's about more than just being optimistic. It's about recognizing that in any situation, you can bring together the resources needed to deliver value to someone (or some group) with a need. How did we do this? We started by creating several large-scale, highly detailed images, much like the crowded scenes from a Where's Waldo book (Where's Wally? for non-American audiences). But, instead of filling them with places for Wally to hide, we filled them with entrepreneurial opportunities. We presented these images to young learners on 32 occasions over a school year. And on each occasion, we asked them at least five questions, which looked something like these:

  • What opportunity do you see to sell something to the people on the beach?
  • What opportunity do you see to supply the builders near the opera house?
  • What opportunity do you see to serve the tourists in the square?


To answer these questions, learners would first have to find the people on the beach, for example. Then they would figure out what they might need, based on the details in the illustration. In this case, it was clear that the beachgoers were hot and sweaty. They'd then scan the rest of the illustration to see how they could interpret the detail of "hot and sweaty beachgoers" in terms of a need they might fulfill. The sharp-eyed among them would likely recognize a drinks vendor a few streets away. Or an ice cream shop nearby. They'd then have to work out what would be required to sell cold drinks or ice cream to the people on the beach and how they could make money from delivering the value of cooling down the hot sunbathers.


To bring this back to our three key mindset-shaping questions, here's what we did to develop an opportunity-seeking mindset in those young learners:

  1. We drew their attention to opportunities by recognizing the needs of people and groups.
  2. We drew attention to the way(s) they could bring together the resources required to fulfill opportunities.
  3. We drew attention to opportunity recognition and fulfilment 150 times over a year.


On top of the questions designed to connect opportunity dots, we asked learners reflection questions to help them to evaluate their ideas. This made the experience more durable and it helped to forge new neural pathways for recognizing opportunities.


The continual experience of identifying opportunities, over a long period of time, changed the way those learners saw the world in general – not only in the terms we set for them. They began to see the world as a place full of opportunity. It didn't matter if they didn't live near a beach. Their ability to see opportunities didn't depend on there being a beach nearby. Their ability to see opportunities was shaped by paying attention to their environment in a particular way.


Similarly, any person can develop a mindset conducive to GenAI adoption by working with GenAI tools and by reflecting on their experience in a way that builds up models for good GenAI usage going forward. The principles for using these tools remain the same, even if the technologies themselves change. And those principles can take root in anyone's mind if they use the tools and reflect on them in a particular way, continually, for long enough.


So, how do you get people to pay attention to their GenAI use in a way that they develop the right kind of mindset – that is, an enduring inclination for productive GenAI use? Let's take a look at each aspect of what we consider to be a great GenAI mindset, one perspective at a time.


Willing to experiment with GenAI tools

It takes patience and curiosity to be truly keen to experiment with GenAI tools. By contrast, think about a tool such as a hammer. When you hit a nail with a hammer, you expect the hammer to drive the nail into the wood. And, barring accidents, the outcome is typically as expected. The nail either goes into the wood, or it doesn't. If it doesn't, you hit it again. No experimentation required. But when you prompt ChatGPT to help you write a difficult email, you have to be comfortable with a range of possible outcomes. It may hit the nail on the head, so to speak. Or it may miss the mark entirely. Whatever the result, you should keep using your GenAI tools, knowing that you'll become a better tool master and the tools themselves will improve over time as well.


GenAI laggard:

"I don't want to fiddle with this tool, I want it to give me the answer." ❌

GenAI leader:

"I'm keen to try a few things out and see what happens." ✓


Curious about observing results

When you get results you don't like or expect, the thing to do is to be curious. Ask yourself why you got what you did. What you shouldn't do is get frustrated or upset. The tool you're using is not truly intelligent, after all. It isn't emotionally invested in your success. It's just a tool. If your nail suddenly bent as you were hammering it into a door, you wouldn't get upset with the hammer. You'd wonder, "Did I hit the head at the wrong angle? Or is there something in the wood that's blocking the way?" That's the kind of curiosity you need when you get a GenAI result that's not what you'd hoped for.


GenAI laggard:

"I'm not getting what I want. This thing isn't working." ❌

GenAI leader:

"Interesting! Look what it did. I wonder what would happen if …" ✓


Non-judgmental in observing results from a creative perspective

People who are used to thinking creatively are comfortable with ambiguity. For example, a creative brainstorm can only be successful if it's okay for all participants to share any ideas that come to mind – even ideas that don't seem to fit the brief. If you shut down ideas too quickly, you throw cold water over all the creative sparks in the room. Creative thinkers in these contexts learn to see all ideas as worthy of attention. They don't fixate on the way new ideas don't fit the solution. They focus on the ways they do. And the same attitude will serve you well as you try out GenAI tools for different purposes. They will generate responses to your prompts that don't quite fit what you asked for. But if you keep an open mind, you may see in their responses the glimmer of an idea that is worth exploring further.


GenAI laggard:

"That's the wrong idea. It doesn't match what I asked for." ❌

GenAI leader:

"That's another new idea." ✓


Judgmental in evaluating results from a critical perspective

GenAI tools are not great judges of their own output. There are many stories of AI hallucinations potentially creating embarrassment for users – or worse. A great way to avoid this is to set up your criteria for success before you query the tools. Ask yourself what you expect 'good' to look like, then judge the results against these criteria. And don't stop there. Treat all responses with a healthy degree of skepticism and interrogate them in any way you can think of.


GenAI laggard:

"Great, that'll do. Copy … and … PASTE!" ❌

GenAI leader:

"I need to fact-check what I've just been given. This set of results is probably neither definitive nor complete." ✓


Willing and keen to iterate prompts in response to GenAI output to achieve better results with each successive approximation

Each time you query a GenAI tool in a new way, you're a bit like a chef creating a new dish from your imagination. You haven't yet worked out the proportions of the ingredients or the steps in the cooking method. So, the chances of your first attempt being perfect are slim. It's possible you'll need to cut back on the sugar and add more salt. And maybe you need a little acid next time around to cut through the fat. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting after all. And you can only get a better result if you try again and tweak the recipe. The prompts you use to query a GenAI tool are similar. Your first attempt will most likely give you an unbalanced response. And you'll need to tweak the prompt to bring the proportions of the response in line with what's useful to you. On the other hand, don't make the mistake of endless iteration with ever more complex prompts. Give yourself a break point and ask whether a simpler prompt might actually get better results.


GenAI laggard:

"I'm not getting what I want. I should do this manually. It will be quicker." ❌

GenAI leader:

"If I tweak the prompt, the result could get closer to what I'm looking for. Or maybe I'm asking a question that is leading me in an unhelpful direction. What else can I ask to get what I'm looking for?" ✓


Committed to retaining and organizing prompts and findings

In January 2024, The Washington Post ran an article titled AI is outrageous – and wonderful. It's also prompting a new form of art. One of the artists it referenced is Phillip Toledano, a photographer who has generated beautiful, surreal photographic imagery with AI. But, when asked if he could share some of his prompts, he apparently "politely declined, saying they were part of his 'magic spells.'" So, for some people, prompts are a kind of secret sauce, like computer code or the formula for Coca Cola. And why not? If the prompts you create can save you time, beautify your work, or create more value for a client, why shouldn't you protect them like any other IP? Or share them with the world if that's a more appropriate purpose? When you start to think of prompts in this way, you start to see the value in storing and sorting them. It's quite likely that prompt snippets will be useful to you as you continually come back to similar tasks over time.


GenAI laggard:

"You can store prompts? What's the point of that?" ❌

GenAI leader:

"I'm a squirrel, a magpie, and a librarian. I store things I know will be useful later, and I organize them so they're easy to find." ✓


Committed to using GenAI tools ethically

As many historians have expressed in one way or another, every technology has its shipwrecks. Social media helps to organize communities in times of emergency, such as earthquakes or forest fires. But it can also be used to fix elections or spread the conceptual seeds of psychological epidemics. GenAI is no different. Already we are seeing the proliferation of deepfake videos that steal people's identities to spread misinformation. And hackers have just been given the most powerful tool they've ever had to prey upon the vulnerable. But there are always more people in the world who are committed to using technology for good. And that's why we're seeing GenAI used for medical image enhancement, personal tutoring, and real-time translation. Use cases that save and improve lives and bring us closer together. Using this technology in the best possible ways begins with everyone's best intentions. You can use it in any way you wish. Use it for good.


GenAI laggard:

"This is just a computer program. It can't judge me. It doesn't matter what I ask it to do." ❌

GenAI leader:

"Before I use a tool, I should think about the content of my prompt and ask whether I'm entering anything I don't have permission to use. And I should think about the ethical implications of what I'm asking the tool to create." ✓



The longer you wait to invest in using GenAI tools in your business, the more you're out of the market for realizing the upside of your investment. Even if you don't see immediate relevance based on what the tools can do today, you'll benefit from the enhanced GenAI mindset of your people tomorrow.


Interested in activating GenAI mindsets in your organization? Then take a moment to learn about our ChatGPT Foundations Quest.