My heart goes out to all OpenAI employees. They didn’t sign up for the drama and deserve better.
For first-time CEOs and board members, you have a lot to learn from the situation. When emotions run high, your job is to stay calm, analyze the situation, predict outcomes, make the right decisions, and execute them flawlessly. Great job, huh? It’s what you signed up for. The main thing I would like to remind you is that as leaders, we are not judged by our intentions but by our intentions Results. I’m sure you think your intention is good. most people do, but your job is to accomplish the mission in front of you, not just look after it. You will face difficult choices in your career and make some mistakes. everyone does it. I found that the depth of those mistakes in the moment, how quickly you recover from them and how much you learn from them all they depend on ownership of the situation and degree of real-time introspection. There was a time in my career when I read on time Extreme ownership it helped me look in the mirror and grow as a leader.
Now, back to lessons you can be detached from the situation. I’ll skip the obvious ones you’ve already read in the big press. The motivations of the OpenAI panel can be analyzed on several levels, and some of this analysis depends heavily on where you take AI risks. But if you look at it Results from their actions, the situation suddenly becomes less dependent on your point of view. With the latest developmentit is clear that the OpenAI board failed not only the OpenAI employees, but also the original OpenAI non-profit Mission which they were appointed to protect and cultivate. It also shows the lack property from the mistakes of some board members as the situation was not only mishandled from the start but continued to be mismanaged throughout the process. Again, I’m not judging motives. I use deteriorating effects to measure this.
How can you prevent a similar crisis in your organization? In this situation, there had to be someone with coolness and practical wisdom to advise the board when emotions ran high. You can’t run a $90 billion entity without people like that. As a CEO, you can leverage your board, you can leverage your employees, and you can leverage your network for advice. I had Chief People Officers, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Revenue Officers and countless other employees who helped me make better corporate decisions. I can’t imagine a functional board doing something like this without consulting a General Counsel and Communications Officer (internal or external). If these consultants were the wrong caliber for a $90 billion organization, that tells you something. If these advisors were not aligned with the board or the mission, and the board decided to keep them in the dark, that tells you something as well. Don’t make these mistakes. make sure that as you lead your organization, you have this network of people at all levels of leadership (board, CEO, CxOs). They don’t have to agree with each other or with you, but they do need to be credible and aligned with the mission. If anything, it helps to talk things over with someone before making any rash calls. Let off steam, gain a new perspective and formulate a better plan.
Another clear thing is that there was a clear and sharp difference of opinion at different levels of the OpenAI organization that goes back to the mission of the organization. Does it create a super-intelligence before anyone else? Is it protecting humanity from super-intelligence? Does it support the open research community to co-create super-intelligence and protect against the fact that only a few big techies can afford to create AI on this scale? These are all viable missions, and in the ideal world, they could be achieved simultaneously throughout the journey, but in real life, some are in direct conflict with each other. People brushed this misalignment under the rug, but that’s not the right way to handle the situation (and neither is the drama). Whenever you run your organization, you must either align it with the mission or align the mission with the organization and do so continuously. It’s part of the leadership job. If you let deep cracks grow, they will eventually manifest into crisis.
So the three essentials for you leaders are extreme ownership, building your network of support and trust, and aligning the organization from the top down. The final bonus package is to stay aligned with your employees and be part of ONE team that wins together.