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Can AI Really Boost Productivity and Quality?


The widespread availability of Large Language Models (LLMs), such as ChatGPT, has sparked a lot of interest in how humans can leverage AI, particularly in their work. Harvard Business School has recently published a groundbreaking Working Paper (Navigating the Jagged Technological Frontier: Field Experimental Evidence of the Effects of AI on Knowledge Worker Productivity and Quality) that reveals the transformative impact of AI on the productivity and quality of work among knowledge workers. The study focuses on the performance of Boston Consulting Group (BCG) consultants and offers strong evidence that AI is not just the future—it's already here and now.

The Study in Focus

A team of social scientists collaborated to examine the influence of ChatGPT-4 on BCG consultants. The study covered a significant 7% of BCG's consulting workforce (a total of 758 consultants). The research involved multiple types of experiments and interviews. The tasks completed were carefully chosen to represent the daily responsibilities at a top-tier consulting firm.

The Results Speak for Themselves

The findings are unequivocal:

→ Consultants using AI finished 12.2% more tasks on average, completed tasks 25.1% more quickly, and produced results that were 40% higher quality results than those without.

→ Consultants at all skill levels benefited from AI augmentation: Those below the average performance threshold saw a 43% increase in their scores and those above the average performance threshold saw a 17% increase compared to their own scores.

The results are remarkable and highlight the power of AI. These improvements are not just numbers; they translate to real-world benefits, like faster project completion, better work quality, and even potential for increased revenue.

The Road Ahead

Many companies are still on the fence about implementing AI tools. This hesitation is puzzling, especially considering the average cost of an AI license is around $20 to $30. This is a modest investment compared to the significant impact it can make. After reading the insights in this Working Paper, this shouldn't be the attitude anymore.

In my mind, the question is no longer about whether AI is going to reshape work, but what we want that to mean. We get to make choices about how we want to use AI help to make work more productive, interesting, and meaningful. But we have to make those choices soon, so that we can begin to actively use AI in ethical and valuable ways. –Ethan Mollick

AI comes with huge potential but, yes, also with risks–there's no denying that. However, is it an even greater risk not to use AI at all and stick to traditional methods? We definitely think so and we are not the only ones. AI can be used smartly and not so smartly, the Harvard Business School Working Paper also highlights that. Ignoring AI could mean falling behind in a rapidly evolving business landscape.

We are still at the stage where it's not too late to jump in and start learning. It's crucial not only to know how to use AI but also to understand it in a deeper level. There are numerous ways to learn about AI and how to use it. Here's a couple of suggestions:

Join the discussion and comment your thoughts about the results of the study below.


The study provides truly valuable insights into the capabilities and limitations of AI in a professional setting. To read more about the Working Paper:

Picture credit: Working Paper: Navigating the Jagged Technological Frontier: Field Experimental Evidence of the Effects of AI on Knowledge Worker Productivity and Quality

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