Driving Innovation with Generative AI: Strategies and Execution


A pivotal conference hosted by AI at Wharton and The Mack Institute for Innovation Management, gathered over 75 thought leaders from diverse sectors in the Fall of 2023 at Wharton’s Philadelphia campus to unravel the complexities and possibilities inherent in this groundbreaking technology. The spotlight was on the transformative potential of Generative AI.  Prasanna (Sonny) Tambe, Professor of Operations, Information, and Decisions, and Faculty Co-Director of AI at Wharton (AIW), was part of the event that aimed to decipher the key themes that will shape social dynamics in the years to come.

A central topic that echoed throughout the discussions was the rapid evolution of Generative AI and its profound impact on various industries. Tambe emphasized the breakneck speed at which Gen AI technology is advancing, attributing this progress to substantial investments by OpenAI. The financial commitment to training costs, exceeding $100 million for models like GPT-4, foreshadows a future where AI capabilities continue to redefine the boundaries of what is possible.

Rather than framing Generative AI as a standalone disruptor, Professor Tambe underscored the challenge of finding harmonious workflows that integrate the strengths of AI with the unique attributes of human creativity.

AI’s impact on work was another topic that emerged as a key challenge for the coming years, with Tambe foreseeing a shift in the critical task of innovation from idea generation to the evaluation and selection of ideas. While Generative AI tools excel in creatively generating a multitude of ideas, the challenge lies in refining these ideas—an area where Language Model Machines (LLMs) may require further development.

A panel inspired by an innovation experiment by Christian Terwiesch, Andrew M. Heller Professor at the Wharton School and Co-Director, Mack Institute of Innovation Management, brought this theme into sharper focus. The experiment showcased ChatGPT’s ability to outperform human-generated ideas in terms of quality, speed, and cost.

Drake Pruitt, from Amazon Web Services, added to this narrative, emphasizing the role of human innovators in deeply understanding customers and envisioning transformative solutions. The discussion pointed towards a future where Generative AI becomes a collaborative partner, enhancing creativity but not replacing human ingenuity.

As the conference concluded, the overarching theme became clear— the impact of Generative AI on work is not just a technological shift but a redefinition of collaboration between man and machine.

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