The technological landscape is ever-changing, and few understand that better than Solon Moreira, assistant professor of management at the Fox School of Business.
Moreira’s research focuses on the link between innovation and performance. He’s particularly interested in understanding how established corporations collaborate with startups and how organizations use external sources of knowledge to adjust to a changing technological landscape.
And one technological innovation—artificial intelligence, also known as AI—has been seen by many as particularly disruptive to academia and business. But Moreira is looking at ways that the caution around AI can be replaced with a more forward-thinking approach.
“Many students have approached me asking for my opinion on AI,” Moreira says. “They have concerns and anxiety about how it will shape their future work or wonder if it could make them have problems getting jobs. That was an incentive for me to stay as up-to-date as possible with this technology.”
As a way to help alleviate his students’ fears and curiosities, Moreira began utilizing generative AI in his “Entrepreneurial Thinking and New Venture Creation” course. After a brief lecture on the topic of AI and its potential applications in entrepreneurship, as well as an assigned reading that discussed how AI can be used to create and deliver effective pitches, students set out to create their own startup pitches to potential investors using AI.
“The challenge here is learning how you can implement AI in a way that it's not just giving a command, and then getting the answer, and copy and pasting it in a document,” he says.
His students did more than just that. Using AI, Moreira’s groups created very innovative pitches, and some even utilized voice AI tools to present their pitches. In one example, a group used D-ID, an AI video creation platform, to pitch an eco-friendly electric scooter.
Despite this success, generative AI tools tend to be highly stigmatized in classrooms across the country.
From scanning student work through AI-detection checkers to outright banning AI in the classrooms, some professors are staunchly against the use of AI in their classrooms.
And to that, Moreira believes they are missing the point.
“Many professors are afraid of using AI, and I think the focus of discussion is often how we can prevent students from using it to plagiarize—and I think this is totally wrong,” Moreira says. “Students are likely going to use AI at work. If I am using AI at my job, why should I expect that students are not going to use it?”
A recent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology even suggests that ChatGPT may boost worker productivity for some writing tasks, including cover letters, emails and cost-benefit analyses. Access to ChatGPT decreased the time it took workers to complete the tasks by an astonishing 40%, and output quality rose by 18%, according to the research.
Allison Fletcher, a marketing specialist at DuPont and an innovation management and entrepreneurship student at Fox, hadn’t explored generative AI much before Moreira’s class, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience she gained through the pitch-developing assignment.
“We all know that this type of technology is the future and will only continue to grow and become more powerful as it learns,” Fletcher says. “Having the opportunity to experience using these tools in an open and encouraging environment has provided me with the knowledge and skills to use them to increase my efficiency in my full-time job.”
“If we don't move in time in this direction. We will not be generating as much value for the students as we should,” says Moreira.
“I refuse to become a dinosaur professor.”