Research from Harvard, MIT and Wharton shows there are pitfalls in relying on junior staff for AI training

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As companies race to adopt artificial intelligence systems, conventional wisdom suggests so younger, more tech-savvy employees will take the lead in teaching their managers how to use the powerful new tools effectively.

But one new study questions this assumption when it comes to the rapidly evolving technology of generative AI.

The researchconducted by academics from Harvard Business School, MIT, Wharton and other institutions in collaboration with Boston Consulting Group, found that junior employees experimenting with a generative AI system made risk mitigation recommendations that conflicted with expert advice. The findings suggest that companies cannot rely solely on reverse mentoring to ensure the responsible use of AI.

“Our interviews revealed two findings that are contrary to the existing literature,” the authors wrote. “First, the tactics the juniors recommended to address the concerns of their seniors contradicted the tactics recommended by experts in GenAI technology at the time, thus revealing that the junior professionals may not be the best source of expertise in the effective use of this technology. emerging technology for older members.”


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Junior consultants struggle with AI risk mitigation in GPT-4 experiment

The researchers interviewed 78 junior consultants in mid-2023 who had recently participated in an experiment that gave them access to GPT-4, a powerful generative AI system, for a business problem-solving task. The consultants, who had no technical AI expertise, shared tactics they would recommend to address managers' concerns about risk.

But the study found that junior employees' risk mitigation tactics were often based on “a lack of deep understanding of the capabilities of the emerging technology,” focused on changing human behavior rather than designing AI systems, and focused on focused on interventions at the project level rather than at the organizational or organization level. industry-wide solutions.

Navigating the challenges of generative AI adoption in business

“To explain how and when junior professionals may fail to be a source of expertise in using an emerging technology for senior members, we must consider not only status threats, but also risks to valuable outcomes,” the researchers wrote. pointing to AI's exponential rate of change, its superhuman capabilities, and its dependence on vast amounts of data.

The findings come as companies grapple with the opportunities and challenges presented by generative AI systems, which can engage in open dialogue, answer follow-up questions and assist with writing, analysis and coding tasks. Highlighting the limitations of relying on digitally native employees to guide AI implementation from the bottom up, the study underlines the need for top-down AI management, expert input and upskilling at all levels of the organization.

“Senior professionals face the dual responsibility of rapidly implementing emerging technologies today, and anticipating future versions of technologies and their implications for both their clients and their own organizations,” the authors said. “To lead their teams and organizations as they grapple with a rapidly expanding technological frontier, seniors must develop a deep understanding of new technologies and their associated capabilities.”

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