Ethan Mollick is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at The Wharton School. In early 2023, he made headlines for mandating the use of AI in his curriculum. So far, he says, it’s been a success. He also writes One Useful Thing , a popular Substack that translates his academic research on AI and business into practical learnings. In this episode, Mollick shares his wealth of knowledge on how AI is empowering productivity and education, and what leaders can do to embrace AI at work.

Ethan Mollick is the final guest for season 4 of Microsoft’s WorkLab podcast, in which hosts Elise Hu and Mary Melton have conversations with economists, technologists, and researchers who explore the data and insights into why and how work is changing.

Three big takeaways from the conversation:

  1. AI is a general purpose technology, or as Mollick describes it, “a new technology that comes along and touches everything,” much like steam power, the computer, or electrification. And it’s here now. Fourteen percent of Americans have already tried it. “It’s the fastest technology we know of to [reach] 100 million users,” he says.

  2. The biggest AI use cases for business leaders are writing documents and conducting research. “AI can do that stuff faster,” Mollick says. “It’s a huge opportunity to think about, ‘What do we do with a giant productivity gain? How do we get people to do more meaningful work?’”

  3. Mollick urges business leaders to start using AI now, if they aren’t already. They should also encourage their employees to use AI. “I don’t think you’d be remiss as a leader of a large-scale Fortune 1000 company to take the top 20 percent, most creative people, require them to use AI for a week, then give a million-dollar prize to whoever comes up with the best way to automate parts of their job—all while promising you’re not going to fire anyone as a result.”

WorkLab is a place for experts to share their insights and opinions. As students of the future of work, Microsoft values inputs from a diverse set of voices. That said, the opinions and findings of the experts we interview are their own and do not reflect Microsoft’s own research or opinions.

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Here’s a transcript of the episode 8 conversation.

MARY MELTON: This is WorkLab , the podcast from Microsoft. I’m your host, Mary Melton. On WorkLab , we hear from leading thinkers on the future of work. Economists, technologists, researchers—they all share surprising data and explore the trends transforming the way we work.

ETHAN MOLLICK: Jobs is the wrong unit of analysis for thinking about change. We actually think about jobs as bundles of tasks. Some of those tasks, AI is going to be very good at helping you with, some it’s not going to be good at at all. So change is going to happen at the task level, not the job level.