Small to Mid-Sized

Embracing AI with Jarad Johnson and Thomas Douglas

Jarad Johnson, Founder and CEO at Mostly Serious, and Thomas Douglas, CEO at JMark, share how their organizations are embracing AI, challenges they’ve faced along the way, and the benefits they’re seeing.

By Max Havey

Jan 2024

Stock illustration of conversation with AI
Image courtesy Shutterstock

Conversations about artificial intelligence (AI) are everywhere these days, whether that’s the promise of it as an accelerator for business or the reticence from some to fold it into their existing arsenal of tools. But one thing is certain; having a plan for how to best embrace it is the only way forward. So, we chatted with a couple of businesses from southwest Missouri who have taken the leap to better understand their journey with AI.

Jarad Johnson, Founder and CEO of Mostly Serious, notes that his experience with AI started with using the early iterations of prominent tools today like GPT 2 or GPT 3, where the functionality and potential were apparent, but weren’t refined enough to be incorporated into day-to-day work. “Seeing those early iterations, you could get a glimpse of how, if they took a leap forward this could be a pretty significant, world-altering technology,” Johnson says.

While the release of GPT 4 in early 2023 marked that leap Johnson was looking for, the explosion of tools led to some analysis paralysis about which ones fit their needs. “It’s like drinking from a firehose all the time,” Johnson says. Johnson and his business partner quickly realized that they needed to focus on what they were doing with AI if they were going to use it day-to-day in their teams. “Our approach has turned into, give people clear guardrails around how we expect people to use AI, like making sure we aren’t putting any proprietary or client information into the AI,” Johnson says. “After we give those guardrails, it makes it a lot easier for individuals to explore how the AI can help their daily work.”

Experimentation to find the best fit is also the key piece of advice Thomas Douglas, CEO at JMARK, has for embracing AI as a business. At JMARK, Douglas’s team is currently testing ChatGPT internally to do things like take generic information and accelerate problem resolution or use it to help with automation and script development before it is ever put into a production environment with customer data. “I think it’s really important to spend the time and experiment, test and play, get to know which tools create the most value and align with your model,” Douglas says.

As with adopting any new technology, there’s also going to be a learning curve. Both Johnson and Douglas cite prompt creation as one of the biggest roadblocks to successfully using AI in their organization and beyond. Johnson specifically cite creating forums for employees to share how they’re using AI so they can learn from their colleagues how to better use these tools.

Those roadblocks don’t outweigh the benefits that accelerate the work their organizations are doing, optimizing for the future. “It’s not the cure-all, it’s not going to replace all of your people,” Douglas says. “But if you can have four people get the work done of five, six, seven, obviously you’re optimizing your business and creating better value for your customers as a result.”

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