The Cultural Benefits of Artificial Intelligence in the Enterprise

Findings from the 2021 Artificial Intelligence and Business Strategy Global Executive Study and Research Project

by: Sam Ransbotham, François Candelon, David Kiron, Burt LaFountain, and Shervin Khodabandeh
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The benefits of artificial intelligence go well beyond improved efficiency and decision-making. AI can also improve organizational effectiveness and strengthen teams and enterprise cultures.

Artificial intelligence can generate cultural as well as financial benefits for organizations. With AI systems in place, teams can perform tasks with more pride and confidence and collaborate more effectively: They can actually get stronger. These cultural benefits can penetrate the foundation of business operations, improving assumptions that drive organizational behaviors and ensuring the pursuit of smarter goals.

When conducting our research, we heard story after story from executives familiar with AI implementations in their organizations. The overarching message was clear and backed up by survey data: Business culture affects AI deployments, and AI deployments affect business culture.

This MIT SMR-BCG report — based on a global survey of 2,197 managers and interviews with 18 executives — identifies a wide range of AI-related cultural benefits at both the team and organizational levels. Among survey respondents with AI implementations that improved efficiency and decision-making, for example, more than 75% also saw improvements in team morale, collaboration, and collective learning. Culture change from using AI transcends the legitimate, but myopic, promise that AI will liberate workers from drudgery.

These cultural changes are more than a side benefit. AI-related cultural and financial benefits build on each other. Survey respondents who saw significant financial benefits from their AI initiatives were 10 times more likely to change how they measure success than those who saw no such benefits. In some cases, AI helped leaders identify new performance drivers, which led to new assumptions, objectives, measures, and patterns of behavior, along with new areas of accountability. AI also helped these organizations realign behaviors and become more competitive.

Building a culture that supports innovation with AI has an effect on competitiveness. Our research found that respondents who use AI primarily to explore new ways of creating value are far more likely to improve their ability to compete with AI than those who use AI primarily to improve existing processes. Respondents who said they use AI primarily to explore were 2.7

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References

1. E.H. Schein, “Organizational Culture,” working paper 2088-88, MIT Sloan School of Management, Cambridge, Massachusetts, December 1988.

2. Our assessment of “significant financial benefits” uses a threshold that varies based on an organization’s size. For details about this measurement, see S. Ransbotham, S. Khodabandeh, D. Kiron, et al., “Expanding AI’s Impact With Organizational Learning,” MIT Sloan Management Review, Oct. 19, 2020, https://sloanreview.mit.edu.

3. M.D. Watkins, “What Is Organizational Culture? And Why Should We Care?” Harvard Business Review, May 15, 2013, https://hbr.org; and Schein, “Organizational Culture.”

4. Ransbotham et al., “Expanding AI’s Impact.”

5. Schein, “Organizational Culture.”

i. Schein, “Organizational Culture.”

ii. J. Martin, “Organizational Culture: Mapping the Terrain” (Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 2002).

iii. Schein, “Organizational Culture.”

Reprint #:

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