Skip links

Generative AI Can Improve Individual Performance and Destroy Collective Performance

New study: Generative AI (GenAI) detracts from collective creativity by limiting the range of perspectives that individuals bring to the table. One plausible risk is that it could shrink the long-term innovation capacity of organizations, says study from Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

BCG has done an experiment with the support of a group of scholars from Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan School of Management, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Warwick. With more than 750 of their highly skilled young consultants worldwide as subjects, they can conclude that people seem to mistrust the technology in areas where it can actually contribute massive value and to trust it too much in areas where the technology isn’t competent

But first to the individual/collective performance challenge.

The study show a tradeoff between individual performance gains and collective creativity loss: “Because GPT-4 provides responses with very similar meaning time and again to the same sorts of prompts, the output provided by participants who used the technology was individually better but collectively repetitive,” it concludes. The diversity of ideas among participants who used GPT-4 for the creative product innovation task was 41% lower compared with the group that did not use the technology. 

This loss in diversity of thought may have ripple effects beyond what we can currently envision. One plausible risk, says BCG, is that it could shrink the long-term innovation capacity of organizations, for example, by making ideation more homogenous.

“It’s a slippery slope, as a decline in innovation capabilities means less differentiation from competitors, which could impede growth potential,” they write.

Creative Product Innovation is Better
When using OpenAI’s GPT4 for creative product innovation, a task involving ideation and content creation, around 90% of the participants improved their performance, and they best captured this upside when they did not attempt to improve the output that the technology generated, according to the study.

Where as creative ideation seems to improve performance, the technology usedfor business problem solving, a capability outside this frontier, made the performance 23% worse than those doing the task without GPT4.

Other results:

  • many participants who used GPT-4 for this task accepted the tool’s erroneous output at face value.
  • Bottom performers get more out of GenAI than top performers (which others studies have also show)
  • Roughly 70% of the participants believe that extensive use of GPT-4 may stifle their creative abilities over time.

Read the full study/experiment here

We used for the illustration with this prompt: Show how collective creativity can be destroyed by generative AI