top of page

Harvard Business School Collaborates with BCG on AI Productivity Study

Hafeez Olayiwola

18 Oct 2023

Navigating the Jagged Technological Frontier

A recent study led by Harvard researchers revealed that the use of generative AI significantly enhanced the performance of consultants at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in terms of task completion speed, frequency, and quality compared to those who did not employ AI. Additionally, the research indicated that the most substantial improvements were observed among the group's lowest performers. Conducted in collaboration with data scientists from Wharton and MIT, this study is the inaugural comprehensive examination of generative AI's real-world application in enterprises following the widespread adoption triggered by ChatGPT's public launch in November 2022. Initiated in January of the current year and utilizing GPT-4—a large language model widely acknowledged as the most potent—the study offers crucial insights into best practices for businesses considering AI deployment.

Difference in performance among BCG consultants, comparing those who used AI versus those who didn’t. (Image Credit: Navigating the Jagged Technological Frontier)

The research paper delves into the complex landscape of AI's role in knowledge work, offering a nuanced perspective that is both promising and cautionary. It highlights how AI can significantly improve efficiency and effectiveness in professional settings, but also brings to light the ethical and accountability challenges that come with its integration. The paper particularly emphasizes the variability in AI's performance based on the complexity and type of tasks, suggesting that AI technologies are not a one-size-fits-all solution.

The paper's findings have implications for various sectors, including financial services. It advocates for a balanced approach that combines the strengths of both AI and human expertise. The research also calls for robust risk assessment mechanisms and ethical frameworks to mitigate potential negative impacts. Furthermore, it suggests that organizations should focus on task-specific applications of AI, and consider implementing training modules to help professionals navigate the evolving landscape of AI in knowledge work.


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

Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 24-013

58 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2023 Last revised: 27 Sep 2023

Fabrizio Dell'Acqua Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Edward McFowland Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Ethan R. Mollick University of Pennsylvania - Wharton School

Hila Lifshitz-Assaf Harvard University Lab for Innovation Sciences; Harvard LISH, Lab for Innovation Sciences; University of Warwick, Warwick Business School

Katherine Kellogg Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Saran Rajendran Boston Consulting Group, Henderson Institute

Lisa Krayer Boston Consulting Group, Henderson Institute

François Candelon Boston Consulting Group, Henderson Institute

Karim R. Lakhani Harvard Business School - Technology and Operations Management Group;

Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science; Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Date Written: September 15, 2023

Like, Comment, Share.

bottom of page