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Are the Benefits of Ideating with Gen AI Worth the Learning Curve?: A Commentary

By Darnesha Tabor and Malaika Cheney-Coker

Is Gen AI a worthy brainstorming partner? For months we’ve been exploring this question through the development and launch of our Gen AI-aided ideation workshop, designed to help teams incorporate Gen AI into their creative problem-solving processes. So, naturally, we were intrigued by this Harvard Business Review article, Don’t Let Gen AI Limit Your Team’s Creativity, on the same topic. Kian Gohar and his co-researcher, Jeremy Utley found that ChatGPT can generate a plethora of ideas, but that the teams that used Gen AI for problem solving only saw “modest gains,” or in some cases “underperformed.” While still a believer in the hefty potential of Gen AI to boost the ideation process, Gohar offers some practical tips for getting the most out of AI. These include carving out time for ‘human only’ brainstorming, approaching Gen AI as a conversation partner rather than a guru, and being precise about the problem one is trying to solve.  

Gohar and Utley’s findings largely mirror our experiences and takeaways, which include:

  • Start somewhere. We remind ourselves that we once had to learn how to get optimal results out of search engines like Google that we take for granted today. Similarly, learning how to get the most out of Gen AI for ideation takes practice and some degree of trial and error.

  • Human facilitators still rule! Through beta testing of the workshop, we have recognized the indispensable value of our role as external facilitators in eliciting human ideas, ensuring ethical guidelines are followed, and gauging when and how best to deploy the technology in the stream of live conversation. 

  • Move over ChatGPT. We don’t use ChatGPT at all in our workshops, not because it’s not helpful in its own right, but because there are other ideation-supporting Gen AI platforms, some of which are more optimized for group brainstorming and divergent thinking. 

  • Creativity is a human superpower. Gen AI is creative in its own way, but the real magic happens when it is used to spark human creativity. It is true, as the article’s headline suggests, that when used ineptly, it can stymie human creativity. But we have also seen that the opposite can occur when it is used proficiently.

  • Gen AI sets the table. Part of the success we’ve witnessed arises not just from the results of the tool, but the fact that, just like communal meals encourage conversation, engaging with the tool “sets the table” for human ideation to occur. Making space for ideation is crucial given that it is routinely squeezed out by what’s on the to-do list! 

  • The trouble is worth it. One might ask, given the above-mentioned learning curve, not to mention the ethical and environmental concerns of using Gen AI, why make the kind of investment of time and effort this guidance would suggest? The cost-benefit calculations will be different for every individual and group. However, those breakthrough moments, when Gen AI triggers a new possibility – or conversely, when it gives a group already laden with ideas a practical way forward – are very much worth the trouble!  

For more information or to register for our Creative Sparks—Gen AI Ideation Workshop, click here:

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