Wednesday, June 12, 2024

What Happens When Your Team Adds an AI Teammate?

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Bruce Kogut, Fabrizio Dell’Acqua, and Patryk Perkowski have conducted a study to examine how team performance changes when we replace a human member with an AI agent.  In their research project, more than 100 two-person teams played 12 rounds of a video game. For the first six rounds, only humans played the game. For the next six rounds, the researchers replaced one human on each team with an AI agent. Interestingly, they found that performance in the game initially declined when an AI agent replaced a human team member, though performance ultimately bounced back after several rounds of game play. This effect occurred even though the AI agents were actually superior to humans when playing the game individually.  Kogut explained why team performance declined at first:

Despite the AI’s superior individual performance and the fact that bonuses were paid to the entire team if it performed well, 84% of respondents preferred to play with their human teammates. From surveys conducted at the midpoint and end of the experiment, we learned that AI causes team sociability to fall, and that lessens members’ motivation, effort, and trust.

Perhaps most surprisingly, the scholars found that all-human teams adjacent to a team with an AI agent also experienced a decline in performance.  The scholars described this phenomenon as a spillover effect.  What's going on there?  Kogut explained that the AI agent disrupted the environment, perhaps affecting the routines and processes within the all-human teams.  He likened to the impact that losing an employee, or hiring an inexperienced one, can sometimes have on adjacent teams in an organization because of the disruption of usual work routines.  

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