Dilip Kodlipet Jagadeesh: How AI Is Disrupting Our Industry, and What We Can Do About It

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Putting Principles into Practice: Establishing Ethical Standards for AI
Bridging the Core Values and Practical implementation of AI is a critical step, especially as AI continues to reshape various industries. This isn’t just about adhering to regulations — it’s about fostering trust and ensuring our innovations benefit everyone equally.

Artificial Intelligence is no longer the future; it is the present. It’s reshaping landscapes, altering industries, and transforming the way we live and work. With its rapid advancement, AI is causing disruption — for better or worse — in every field imaginable. While it promises efficiency and growth, it also brings challenges and uncertainties that professionals and businesses must navigate. What can one do to pivot if AI is disrupting their industry? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Dilip Kodlipet Jagadeesh.

As a seasoned Product Design Leader specializing in enterprise productivity tools and AI experiences, Dilip Kodlipet Jagadeesh stands at the forefront of integrating cutting-edge technologies to enhance efficiency and innovation. Currently leading the Product Design teams at Smartsheet, Dilip harnesses a deep understanding of AI and human-computer interaction to revolutionize work management solutions. With a background in Computer Science Engineering and a rich history of significant roles, including a pivotal position at BNSF Railway, Dilip is recognized for driving design-led innovation and advocating for inclusive, user-centered product experiences.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Thanks for having me in this series. I am Dilip Kodlipet Jagadeesh, and I am presently working as the Director of Product Design at Smartsheet. Now, let’s talk a bit about my journey and what attracted me to this exciting field. I grew up in India with a lot of curiosity and love for building new things. This builder’s mindset was further complemented with a huge interest in storytelling through filmmaking, in discovery of social issues, igniting discussions about it, and bringing them to light. My tryst with technology started during my days as an engineering student when I was fascinated by technology’s potential to better lives and solve real-world problems. Only later arose the one critical moment when I decided to combine my ability to tell a story with my technical knowledge.

After the first experience in a tech studio in India, my aspirations to get deeper knowledge in the field of AI and human-computer interaction moved me to the United States. Here I studied for a Master’s in Computer Science with a focus on artificial intelligence. I have won some hackathons and competitions, like the Intel IoT Roadshow, within the innovation culture in Silicon Valley. This experience has crystallized my passion for using technology to design solutions for impacting lives and has guided me on this path in product design.

As a starting UX designer for a contract management company that works with FedTech, I have applied diverse skills in making internal tools usable, intuitive, and user-centered. Every project brought a new story, a new puzzle to solve, fully aligned with my ikigai: blend technology, storytelling, and design to deliver meaningful experiences to the user.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Smartsheet is recognized as one of the leading tools in work management software, allowing an organization to plan, execute, and track work over projects and processes. Smartsheet potentially represents a leading tool in work management software because it is so flexible and can apply to so many industries, from aerospace through health care, down to sizeable digital transformation projects.

The strongest illustration of the unique capabilities of Smartsheet is its record quick deployment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in collaboration with Roche Diagnostics. When the Roche Diagnostics team was challenged with a crucial issue — how to manage demand across the U.S. for COVID-19 tests — Smartsheet played a key role in developing a solution to track and prioritize these demands. This tool was created in less than 48 hours, underscoring the speed at which Smartsheet reacts to critical needs, much as the real-time data collection system directs testing supplies to where and when they are most needed and adapts quickly with the situation. With this kind of flexibility and robustness, Smartsheet was able to enable Roche to manage a highly complex distribution network and provide prompt data through federal health authorities, thus proving to be of massive value at a time when one of the most critical health crises was taking on gargantuan proportions.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Curiosity –
“My unyielding curiosity pushes me to continually explore new technologies, methodologies, and ways to think about product experiences.

Curiosity has been a driving force in my career, especially in the dynamic field of product design. It’s not just about seeking new ideas; it’s about deeply understanding the ‘why’ behind user behaviors and technological possibilities.

One particular story that stands out in demonstrating the impact of curiosity occurred during my tenure at Smartsheet. We noticed rich user-activity data within every sheet on our platform and saw an opportunity to enhance the usability of this feature. Intrigued by the potential to transform raw data into meaningful insights, I wondered how we could help users convert their project activities into actionable insights.

To explore this, I led a targeted project to gather direct feedback from users across various industries, employing surveys, interviews, and direct observations of their daily workflows with our tool.

The insights we gathered were eye-opening. We learned that users desired deeper insights into their data to manage projects more effectively, with needs varying significantly across industries. This led us to develop a new analytics tool named ‘Work Insights.’ This tool was designed to be highly flexible yet intuitive, enabling users to uncover profound understandings of their processes and projects.

This initiative satisfied my curiosity and significantly boosted our product offerings and user satisfaction. It underscored the power of curiosity in fostering innovation that directly addresses user needs, enhancing both product development and customer satisfaction.

“As a People leader, Empathy allows me to understand and prioritize user needs and team member needs, which is essential in fostering a culture that empowers the team to push boundaries and create meaningful experiences.”

At Smartsheet as we continue to develop a wide array of tools for builders to create new digital experiences, I began to reflect deeply on our responsibilities. How could we educate our users and ensure these experiences were truly accessible to everyone, including those often overlooked, such as visually impaired users? This question sparked a commitment to embed ‘safety guardrails’ within our builder tools experience, not just as features but as fundamental aspects of our development ethos.

Driven by this empathy, we focused on leveraging advanced AI technologies to dismantle the barriers visually impaired users face. The result was Design A11y, an innovative tool that integrates directly into our platform, dramatically simplifying the creation of accessible digital content. By doing so, it empowered our builders to be inclusive by default, making sophisticated accessibility checks and enhancements straightforward and intuitive.

This initiative, born from our commitment to empathy and inclusivity, did not go unnoticed. Design A11y was recognized with an award, affirming the significance of our efforts to create a more inclusive digital world. This accolade was not just a personal achievement but a testament to the product design philosophy that great design must be accessible design.

Resilience –

“Resilience has enabled me to navigate the fast-paced tech landscape, driving projects to completion amid challenges.”

As a UX lead for a large enterprise digital transformation program, I was tasked with designing an app for Field and Yard employees. We discovered a significant oversight late in the development process: a large user group would be wearing gloves that interfered with touchscreen usability. This oversight could have severely limited the app’s effectiveness, as the UI was not designed to accommodate the touch radius of gloved fingers.

Faced with this challenge, I encountered initial resistance when proposing significant UI changes to accommodate these users. Leadership was hesitant, possibly viewing it as a delay or additional expense. However, I knew how critical it was to include this user group, so I demonstrated the issue firsthand to ensure no one was excluded from the product experience.

I bought a pair of similar work gloves and used them to interact with our mobile prototype during a demonstration for our leadership team. This practical demonstration vividly illustrated the design’s limitations with gloved use. I also presented data on the number of employees using the app in the yard, emphasizing the scale and importance of the issue.

This approach changed minds and reinforced the value of persistence and empathy in design. To resolve the issue, I spearheaded the development of a ‘Gloves On’ mode, which adjusted the UI to increase button sizes and touch sensitivity, ensuring the app was accessible for all users, regardless of their work attire.

This experience underscored the importance of resilience and adaptability in technology roles. It taught me that effective problem-solving sometimes requires going beyond traditional roles and expectations, engaging directly with challenges, and advocating persistently for inclusive and practical solutions.

Let’s now move to the main point of our discussion about AI. Can you explain how AI is disrupting your industry? Is this disruption hurting or helping your bottom line?

AI is dramatically transforming the UX and Product Design industry at a massive pace through automation in the process, thereby ushering in the next wave of hyper-personalization. It thus facilitates the automatization of routine tasks for a designer, freeing them up to more creatively and efficiently solve complex challenges, respectively, thus reducing time-to-market. Equally important, the role of product experience design and data analysis in tailoring experiences to individual user preferences is critical.

However, the shift is not without its challenges. With the introduction of AI tools, the designer’s capacity will have to be adapted and re-skilled in integrating the tools in the design workflow. The designer needs to know the nuances and intricacies of the technologies well and be up to date with the new modalities and paradigms of the interaction. This will be disruptive in the short run, but it will lead to higher productivity and innovation in the long run.

I see all this disruption AI brings as just good for the bottom line. All this helps us create better, human-centered design in less time and, in a straight line, impacts customer satisfaction and retention. This is important in the sense that AI is a tool that supplements but will never replace the human elements of creativity and empathy connected with great design. It is a balanced approach to using AI to elevate our capabilities without losing the all-important human touch that user experience imparts.

What specific aspects of your industry are having transformative impacts from AI?

In this series of articles, ‘Crafting AI Experiences,’ and more specifically, ‘Leveraging AI as a Collaborator Throughout the UX Process,’ I will cover the deep impacts AI has had on different aspects of UX design. From ideation to organization, AI tools like FigJam AI make it easier to conduct brainstorms in ways that are not only quicker but more dynamic.

Moving now to Design Efficiency and Inclusivity, we have tools like Khroma and Magician for Figma, which automate important changes and applications that enhance creativity and ensure our designs get to a varied audience. In User Research and Analysis, the ability of AI to gather and sift data fast will be key in affording us deep insights into the behavior and preferences of users, hence leading to intuitive and user-centered designs. The role of AI in generating creative assets and textual content quickly is to streamline the workflow for fast iterations and the most effective way to execute the project.

Now, most of these tools are in their infancy, though. Yet, they have quite a bit of growing tech behind them, and the growing demand for those capabilities, too, is only on the rise. Such AI capabilities really drive a workflow, making it efficient and freeing up time and space for UX practitioners to get more creative in solving problems. It boosts productivity and allows a designer to pay more attention to more complex and higher-impact challenges.

Can you share a pivotal moment when you recognized the profound impact AI would have on your sector?

You know, very much a turning point, and one I think for our industry overall, is when those generative AI tools from OpenAI really started taking off in 2022. Tools that had the power to invent text and images literally out of thin air were nothing short of revolutionary. That was my first real clue that disruption was coming from AI. Even more, it served as a wake-up call to the type of data being fed into those models and the very serious ethical responsibility that we carry in training them. That moment had been highlighted not of the huge potential for transforming how we work with AI but of the critical importance of wise handling of these technologies.

How are you preparing your workforce for the integration of AI, and what skills do you believe will be most valuable in an AI-enhanced future?

Absolutely, preparing the workforce for the integration of AI is a top priority, and it’s all about cultivating the right mindset and skills. Here’s how we’re tackling it:

As a leader, I believe strongly in leading by example and fostering a culture of continuous learning. I regularly share insights from my readings and explorations into AI technologies with my team. This isn’t just about keeping everyone informed but also about sparking interest and dialogue around these advancements.

There’s a prevalent myth in the UX industry that designers and researchers don’t need to worry about the underlying technology. I disagree. Especially now, as AI technologies evolve rapidly, it’s crucial for designers and researchers to understand these tools deeply. This understanding enables them to collaborate more effectively with engineers and to push the boundaries of what’s possible in creating user experiences. So we are encouraging everyone to strive to be AI literate.

Hands-on practice is another pillar of our approach. By integrating AI tools directly into our workflows, we not only enhance our efficiency but also deepen our team’s understanding of these technologies. This hands-on experience is invaluable; it demystifies AI and turns it into a tangible asset that team members can manipulate and leverage in their daily tasks.

Lastly, I place a high value on curiosity. Fostering this skill is more crucial now than ever in the fast-paced world of AI-driven innovation. Curiosity drives us to ask deeper questions about how things work, to identify what’s missing, and to explore why things are the way they are. This not only fuels personal growth but also leads to better, more thoughtful innovations.

What are the biggest challenges in upskilling your workforce for an AI-centric future?

One of the biggest challenges in upskilling our workforce for an AI-centric future is balancing execution and innovation. In the fast-paced environment we operate in, it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day tasks and lose sight of the bigger picture. To address this, we emphasize the importance of stepping back regularly to evaluate our trajectory toward integrating AI. This process involves questioning where AI can be most effectively adopted into our strategies and experimenting to validate these ideas, which helps ensure that our actions are always aligned with our long-term goals.

Additionally, recalibrating our relationship with AI is crucial. It’s important to define clearly how AI fits within the organization and what it does not do. We view AI as a ‘sidekick’ that enhances efficiency in our workflows, are not a replacement for human creativity and decision-making. This perspective helps integrate AI smoothly into our operations, ensuring it complements rather than competes with our human workforce.

What ethical considerations does AI introduce into your industry, and how are you tackling these concerns?

AI is revolutionizing our industry, but with great innovation comes significant ethical responsibility, particularly concerning privacy, content authenticity, and transparency. Let me walk you through how we’re proactively addressing these vital challenges:

Privacy and Communication–
The most widely discussed ethical issue is privacy. In our industry, where user data can drive AI improvements, it’s crucial that we handle this data with the utmost care. One should tackle this by being transparent about what data we collect and how we use it.

Citation and Content Authenticity–
Another pressing issue is the citation of original content when AI models generate responses or content. This is particularly relevant in fields like journalism or academic writing where authenticity and originality are paramount. One need to address this by implementing technology that can trace content elements back to their sources, ensuring that our AI systems respect and recognize original creators. Additionally, I think we all need to collective advocate for clearer regulations around copyright in AI-generated content to protect original creators while fostering innovation.

Transparency in Training Data and Model Weights–
Finally, there’s a need for higher-order thinking about how training datasets are used and how models are built, including transparency about the data inputs and how model decisions are weighted. This not only helps in building trust with users and market but also fosters a community approach to ethical AI development.

What are your “Five Things You Need To Do, If AI Is Disrupting Your Industry”?

Crafting Your AI Vision: Aligning Business and Customer Needs

In the realm of product innovation, especially in a landscape as dynamic as ours, having a clear stance on AI isn’t just beneficial; it’s imperative. Think of it like setting up a strategic roadmap that aligns with where you want your company to head. This alignment isn’t just about staying relevant; it’s about pioneering new territories.

Why is this important, you might ask? Well, just like any robust business strategy, developing an AI strategy enables forward-looking thinking. It aligns not only with our company’s mission and overarching goals but also acts as a rallying point for our teams. It helps everyone from the top down to be on the same page about what we’re aiming for and how we plan to get there.

Now, how should one approach this? Numerous frameworks out there can guide us, but one that I find particularly compelling is the Disruptive Innovation Theory, coined by Clayton Christensen. This theory isn’t just about making incremental improvements; it’s about shaking things up and creating new markets and value networks. Applying this to AI, we can start by building our own model that specifically addresses how AI can disruptively innovate one’s products and services.

Moreover, engaging with your customers and internal teams to understand how AI might impact their workflows is crucial. It’s not just about automating tasks; it’s about enhancing their experience and adding tangible value to their daily operations. And, instead of just keeping an eye on what our direct competitors are doing with AI, One needs to look broader — learning from tangential industries can provide unique insights and spur innovative applications of AI that we might not have considered before.

This comprehensive approach ensures that we’re not just adopters of AI technology but leaders in shaping how it can enhance our industry.

Harnessing AI: Boost Efficiency and Deepen Your Industry Knowledge
Adopting AI into our workflows has been transformative, not only boosting our efficiency but also profoundly influencing how we approach product design. When we incorporate AI-driven analytics into our processes, it’s like opening a window to deeper insights. It’s not just about processing data faster; it’s about discovering nuances and patterns that were previously hidden. These revelations have led us to develop features that significantly enhance user engagement.

Moreover, integrating AI gives us a firsthand look at how cutting-edge technology operates, which is invaluable. It helps our team understand and evaluate how other products are designed and function. This direct exposure to AI technologies not only keeps us informed but also continuously fuels our creativity. We see what’s possible and what might be improved, prompting us to think innovatively about our own products.

This shift to integrating AI has cultivated a culture of constant learning and innovation within our team. Every day, we’re encouraged to explore new possibilities and rethink traditional approaches. It’s about partnering with AI to redefine what we can achieve together. So, really, AI isn’t just a tool in our toolkit — it can be a catalyst for reimagining how we design and deliver our products.

Putting Principles into Practice: Establishing Ethical Standards for AI
Bridging the Core Values and Practical implementation of AI is a critical step, especially as AI continues to reshape various industries. This isn’t just about adhering to regulations — it’s about fostering trust and ensuring our innovations benefit everyone equally.

AI technology presents unique ethical challenges, particularly concerning data privacy, potential biases, and the need for transparency. These challenges necessitate a robust ethical framework to govern AI use within our operations. Such a framework ensures that we handle data responsibly, uphold privacy standards, and make decisions that are fair and transparent.

Why it’s important: At the core, an ethical framework helps us navigate the complexities of AI in a way that aligns with our core values. For example, consider the potential for AI to unintentionally perpetuate biases. Without strict guidelines, these biases could influence AI-driven decisions, affecting everything from hiring practices to loan approvals. By establishing clear ethical guidelines, we commit to monitoring and adjusting our AI systems, ensuring they perform fairly across all demographics.

How to approach it: Start by defining what ethical AI means for your company. This involves setting up clear guidelines on data usage — how it’s collected, stored, and used. It’s also crucial to implement measures that enhance transparency, like explaining in simple terms how AI makes decisions in our products. Engaging with external stakeholders, such as ethicists or consumer advocacy groups, can provide valuable insights that help refine these guidelines.

Moreover, regular audits of AI systems for compliance with these ethical standards are essential. These audits help identify any deviations and provide a chance to rectify them promptly.

In essence, by developing and adhering to a stringent ethical AI framework, we not only enhance our operational integrity but also build deeper trust with our users and stakeholders. It’s about ensuring that our advancements in AI genuinely enrich the experiences of those we serve and do so in a manner that’s just and equitable.

Demystifying AI: Educating Teams and Customers for a Collaborative Future

AI is surrounded by a lot of buzz and, honestly, quite a few myths too. It’s really important for us, as leaders, to clear up some of these misconceptions. For instance, there’s this widespread notion that AI might replace jobs, which isn’t the case. Instead, AI is here to act like a sidekick for our teams. It’s here to make our jobs easier and more efficient, not to take them away.

For customers, it’s about bringing them on this journey with your company vision by educating them on how AI works, its limitations, and its benefits and helpinh them understand and adapt to the changes more comfortably.

Similarly, educating internal teams is equally crucial. They need to understand how AI fits into our workflow, how it can aid in their day-to-day tasks, and how it can spark innovation within their roles. It’s about ensuring they see AI as a tool that augments their capabilities and helps them excel in their roles.

So, in essence, this ongoing education helps dispel myths, set realistic expectations, and genuinely engage everyone in the evolution of our business as AI becomes more embedded in our operations.”

This approach helps manage expectations and promotes an inclusive culture where AI is viewed as an enabler rather than a disruptor.

Unleashing Creativity: Fostering Innovation and Experimentation with AI

Innovation and experimentation are the lifeblood of any forward-thinking organization, especially when it comes to harnessing the power of AI. At our company, we’ve embraced the vast possibilities AI offers, recognizing that its true potential unfolds when we apply it creatively and innovatively. We encourage our teams to experiment with AI, to push boundaries and think outside the box. This is crucial because those closest to the daily challenges — the teams on the ground — often have the most insightful solutions.

One effective strategy we’ve implemented to foster this culture of innovation is conducting internal hackathons. These aren’t just any events; they’re opportunities for our teams to break away from routine tasks and explore their wildest ideas in AI applications. It’s about going off-script, temporarily setting aside the usual projects to focus purely on what excites them. By doing so, we not only spur innovation but also directly address internal processes that might benefit from a fresh AI perspective.

Moreover, recognizing and rewarding these innovative efforts is key. It sends a powerful message that creative thinking and risk-taking are valued and vital for our growth. This approach has yielded impressive practical solutions that we’ve integrated into our operations and significantly boosted our staff’s engagement and satisfaction.

So, embracing AI is not just about integrating new technologies — it’s about creating an environment where experimentation is encouraged, and innovative ideas are celebrated. That’s how one can stay ahead of the curve and continue delivering exceptional value to our customers.

What are the most common misconceptions about AI within your industry, and how do you address them?

As we integrate AI into our workflows and processes, it’s crucial to clarify what AI can and cannot do. Here are some common myths and the realities that counter them:

AI as Job Replacer –

Contrary to the common fear, AI doesn’t replace jobs in creative sectors but augments human efforts, automating repetitive tasks to allow us to focus on more creative challenges.

AI as a Magic Solution–

AI is not a magic wand that solves problems independently. It requires significant human guidance to be effective, enhancing rather than replacing human capabilities.

AI’s Independence–

It’s a misconception that AI operates autonomously. In truth, AI requires ongoing human interaction for training and fine-tuning, ensuring it aligns with ethical standards and remains effective.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

The Dalai Lama’s quote, “Laugh at yourself and don’t be so pompous and serious,” carries profound wisdom, especially in the realms of leadership and personal development. Its essence is about humility and the importance of not taking ourselves too seriously. This perspective encourages us to embrace our imperfections and acknowledge that we are all human, which in turn fosters a more compassionate and understanding approach to both ourselves and others.

In my experience, this quote has been a grounding force. It reminds me not to get too attached to my own belief systems and to remain open to the diverse knowledge and perspectives that others bring. This approach has not only enriched my personal and professional life but has also helped me to lead more effectively by fostering an environment where everyone feels valued and heard.

Moreover, the ability to laugh at oneself is an act of humility — it shows that we accept our flaws and are open to growth and learning. It reminds us that it’s okay to make mistakes and that these mistakes don’t define our worth or our capabilities. This mindset has been invaluable in maintaining a balanced and joyful approach to life’s challenges and in building resilient and supportive teams.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

Great question. My thoughts and concerns aren’t too far off from what we’ve been discussing. AI holds transformative potential, both tremendously positive and, without careful management, potentially negative. The old saying “With great power comes great responsibility,” really rings true here. We’re at a point where AI can dramatically shape information, perceptions, and even behaviors.

Potential negative impacts of AI include the creation of sophisticated disinformation, the invasion of privacy through surveillance technologies, biases in decision-making processes that can lead to unfair discrimination, and even security concerns if AI systems are used maliciously.

As a leader, these possibilities do keep me awake at night. My challenge — and our challenge as an industry — is to establish robust guardrails around how these AI tools are used globally. We need to ensure that as we develop and deploy AI technologies, we do so with a keen eye towards ethical standards and societal impact. This means setting clear guidelines on AI use, actively working to eliminate biases in AI algorithms, and ensuring transparency in AI operations.

This vigilance influences my daily decision-making by reinforcing the need to balance innovation with responsibility. We strive to empower our teams to explore and innovate while ensuring they understand the implications of their work and the importance of ethical AI development. This dual focus helps us harness AI’s potential for good while mitigating its risks, aiming to create a positive impact on the world.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could start a movement to bring significant good to many people, it would center around supporting and revitalizing farming communities worldwide. Despite their vital role in shaping our cultural landscapes and sustaining traditions, these communities often face challenges due to industrialization and the pressures of capitalism. My aim would be to conserve the rich history and culture embedded within these communities by enhancing awareness and providing support. This movement would strive to ensure that the heritage and livelihoods of farmers are not only preserved but also celebrated and sustained into the future.

How can our readers further follow you online?

For those interested in following my journey and exploring deeper insights into the topics we’ve discussed, I invite them to follow me on LinkedIn and to read my articles on Medium. Here are the links where you can find me:

I regularly share updates, insights, and discussions around the latest trends and personal passions, especially on topics related to AI and Product innovation. I look forward to connecting and learning from your readers.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.