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Critical Thinking Won’t Die With AI—It Will Flourish

Since the launch of Louder Co.'s AI workshop, our team of experts have been on demand, and traveling the country to meet with business leaders. Beyond educating audiences, these engagements offer us a chance to keep a pulse on the business community. Specifically, they enable us to gauge how corporate leaders are thinking about AI. One frequent question is some form of the following query: Will using AI tools extinguish critical thinking skills of so many employees at small and medium-sized businesses? Our message is that when AI is applied to the right challenges in the right way, employees’ critical thinking skills aren’t diminished—they are instead given the chance to shine.

The above concern is most often expressed about generative AI platforms like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and the recently launched ChatGPT Enterprise, built specifically with business applications in mind. Company leaders fret about AI’s impact on their teams. Specifically, they’re concerned that powerful tools like ChatGPT Enterprise may become a crutch. In time, workers may become over-reliant on tech for answers to customer questions and preparation of written documents. Depending on AI could lead employees to stagnate as they don’t increase their knowledge and/or skills.

Or at least that’s the thinking.

In our opinion, such an undesirable outcome would only occur due to poor AI integration into existing business processes and/or subpar employee training. Although AI is new and exciting, it is a tool just like any other used by your employees to complete their work. If they use the wrong tool for the job or aren’t properly trained in its usage, the results will be less than desirable. (This is true whether we are discussing AI, a drill press, or shipping label printer.)

Instead, the key to proper AI utilization is to find the ideal way to integrate AI into your current operations. This happens to be one of the most important aspects to how Louder Co. collaborates with clients. In fact, the latest research from Harvard Business School backs up the importance of determining the right tasks for AI to accomplish. Researchers have even coined the term “jagged technological frontier” to define where AI shines and where it fails to effectively empower employee performance.

So, what is the jagged technological frontier? And how does it relate to your employees retaining and even building their critical thinking skills? As Forbes explains, the term, “highlights the uneven capabilities of artificial intelligence, at least in its current form with GPT-4. Within this frontier, AI can be a game-changer, but outside of it, the AI output can be less reliable, leading to an increase in errors and a degradation in human performance.”

To be clear, “degradation of human performance” is another way of saying that AI misuse can turn your employees into button pushing automatons lacking the critical thinking skills to help your company thrive. However, if you stay on the correct side of the jagged technological frontier, the outcome could very well be quite different, and quite positive.

Here’s some helpful background. The aforementioned Harvard Business School research studied consultants from Boston Consulting Group (BGC). They were split into three groups. The first did not use AI at all. The second used GPT-4 (the AI engine of ChatGPT Enterprise). The third combined GPT-4 and oversight from AI experts guiding its utilization.

The resulting data shows AI’s tremendous power in the workplace. Consultants leveraging it smartly completed 12.2% more tasks and performed individual ones 25% faster. Importantly, their work product was found to be of 40% higher quality than the non-AI group. That last number is critical. The Louder Co. team has observed in case after case of client AI installations that work quality improves as employee critical thinking increases.

The secret is in what employees no longer spend their time doing.

The best AI application in small and medium business is to find those tasks that are boring and repetitive—drudge work for your staff. AI should alleviate such tedium to the greatest extent possible via innovative tech solutions. (After all, these are the tasks that drain your employees’ energy, making them dread work.)

On the other hand, when basic repetitive tasks—the work solidly within the jagged technological frontier—so identified by Harvard Business School—is completed by AI under human oversight, many things start to happen. Firstly, employee energy and enthusiasm hits an all-time high. Why? The worst part of their day is gone. Secondly, they are freed to tap into the skills AI currently lacks. Critical thinking, creativity, and thinking outside of the box explode.

Your organization can also enjoy such a renaissance in employee thinking and output if you apply AI to your business in ways that utilize the technology’s strengths while avoiding its weaknesses. The AI experts at Louder Co. are the best partners for making such informed AI decisions. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you achieve your business goals through cutting edge AI applications while empowering your people at the same time.

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