Back button

Case study: Developing an AI-Ready Workforce for the State of Oregon

January 17, 2023
Dave Edwards speaking on stage at the State of Oregon Workforce and Talent Development Board conference

Technology and education are in an arms race, so it makes a lot of sense for governments and agencies to understand the progress and opportunity of AI and automation. Oregon’s Workforce and Talent Development Board worries a lot about education, training, and talent development in Oregon. The Board prioritizes understanding the skills working Oregonians need for current and future jobs.

When Sonder Studio was asked by the Workforce and Talent Development Board to hold a workshop on AI workforce readiness for more than 100 executives and educators at the Oregon Talent Summit, we had to rapidly innovate our existing workshop processes in order to handle such a large, diverse crowd—especially when the brief was for practical, tangible output that people could apply in their organizations.

We came up with a design-thinking, table-top exercise where participants assessed their own organization’s AI-readiness, the results of which were rolled up and indicative of the State’s overall readiness. Table-based groups had time to talk and compare answers to discussion points around training for technical and non-technical people, how many roles in the company explicitly include AI responsibilities, the diversity of decision-making, and whether the company has people whose job it is to obsess over ethical, social, and regulatory matters.

Once the groups had assessed AI-readiness, participants discussed the importance of closing the gap and prioritized initiatives based on impact and do-ability. This helped people think through whether initiatives were easy wins, stretch goals, increments worth doing, or whether to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. This exercise was valuable because it helps make service-based outcomes more tangible.

As AI changes how humans approach work, the most valuable skills will change. Many of these skills—empathy, questioning, coaching, and dealing with complexity and unpredictability—are hard to measure. This exercise showed people that AI-readiness goes well beyond technology and the role of the IT department. Adopting AI successfully means developing skills across all of the business.

“The opportunity for humans and technology to work together in creative and innovative ways is enormous. But it relies as much on the humans as it does on the machines. The incredible workshop session led by Helen and Dave Edwards at the 2020 Talent Summit was not only thought provoking, engaging, and innovative, but came with practical takeaways. Feedback on the workshop from summit attendees was excellent. The Edwards knocked it out of the park!” —Todd Nell, Director, State of Oregon Workforce and Talent Development Board

To stay up to date on how organizations can implement AI-readiness programs, subscribe to our newsletter here.