Talking artificial intelligence at the 2024 Senior Executive Leadership Summit
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Talking artificial intelligence at the 2024 Senior Executive Leadership Summit

March 18, 2024

This year’s Senior Executive Leadership Summit addressed, along with other leadership topics, a complex subject that provides countless opportunities for our government: artificial intelligence. 

During one breakout session, “Generative AI: Making it Real,” speakers highlighted the importance of educating federal workers at all levels on what AI is and how to use it properly—for example, how to prompt ChatGPT and how it works differently than a search engine. 

The ever-present question of data privacy brought forth practical insights from one of the speakers in this session, Kevin Tupper, a principal solution architect and federal AI evangelist at Microsoft: Be cognizant that some AI models protect your data from being shared externally and some don’t – and the sage reminder relevant to everyone who consumes technology – if you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product. 

This session also examined the importance of every agency leader—not just chief AI, innovation or technology officers– taking ownership of devising and executing AI strategies. AI initiatives are high risk and need to be driven from the top-down. 

In “Thinking through AI Implementation Risks,” the speaker, Bryan Lane, a leader in technology and national security with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, laid out the risks that come with AI in government, and dissuaded the audience from over-anticipating both AI’s benefits and downsides. The session walked through examples of and mitigation steps for different types of risk, examining the necessary actions for effective AI implementation and the kind of troubleshooting to realistically expect.  

For instance, a problem at an existential level would require a massive resource investment and be extremely difficult to resolve, while operational-level risks are highly likely to occur and should be continuously handled through an oversight process. 

AI also repeatedly came up in other sessions during the summit. 

For example, in the foresight session on technology, “AI” was the most common audience response to the question, “What do you think the most disruptive technologies are going to be that impact the public sector over the next 10 years?” While many potential future opportunities and challenges around AI were discussed, one point was made clear: AI will change your work and your world—for better and worse. 

To lead AI implementation within government is to manage change. The components of change management—identifying an issue, building a case for a new process or tool, advocating for resources, assessing risk and more—are leadership elements covered by the summit as steps necessary to overcome challenges and obstacles of all kinds.   

The practice of shepherding progress is especially important in government, which is responsible for producing the best possible outcomes for the public. Accomplishing this involves a disciplined commitment to the public good and a mindset that positive change, even when challenging, is not just possible but worthwhile. 

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