Charles Duhigg is a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter, author, and expert on productivity. His bestselling books, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business are touchstones for business leaders. His newly released book Supercommunicators: How to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection, examines the secrets to great communication skills based on the latest scientific research. 

He shares insights from the latest scientific research about what leaders should be thinking about as they develop good habits around AI and help their organizations tap its full power. He also explains the secret to developing the excellent communication skills you need to stay ahead in the quickly changing world of work—the ability to clearly articulate what you want is vitally important to how you interact with other people as well as AI, and it can even help you get clarity on how to best tackle challenges and seize opportunities.

Three big takeaways from the conversation:

  1. Most people confuse productivity with busyness. Answering a lot of emails isn’t being productive—“real productivity comes from building the habits that allow us to think more deeply, particularly when thought is urgently needed,” Duhigg insists. “When we’re feeling stressed, when we’re feeling overwhelmed, when someone says, ’I need an answer right now,’ the ability to step back and say, ’How do I get myself to think more deeply at this moment? How do I get myself to be innovative on demand?’ Those are the things that lead to real productivity.”

  2. Communication skills are becoming more important every day in our new world of work. “We’re already seeing more and more emphasis on communication ability as something that employers are looking for when they’re hiring,” Duhigg says. “The ability to get along well with others is critical to the success of teams and to individuals.” And that isn’t just a skill that’s helpful in interpersonal situations: “Communication is a technical skill in addition to a human skill. The ability to show during an interview that you can communicate and connect well with others is going to tell that interviewer something about how you also interact with technology, and that’s going to be powerful.”

  3. The secret to getting the most out of AI is about moving beyond the straightforward queries you’d pose to a traditional search engine and into a mode of an ongoing interaction with a more organic give-and-take. “Everything that we can see about the future of tech is that it’s going to be more and more like having a conversation and less and less like using a calculator,” Duhigg says. “I have a 15-year-old son, and if he reads a book that none of his friends are reading, he’ll open up a browser window and have a conversation with ChatGPT or Bing about the book, and he finds it really edifying.”

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 conversation.

MOLLY WOOD: This is WorkLab, the podcast from Microsoft. I’m your host, Molly Wood. On WorkLab we hear from experts about the future of work, from how to use AI effectively to what it takes to thrive in our new world of work.