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The new business assistant, how is generative AI expanding amongst MBA programs in Latin America
Monday, June 17, 2024 - 14:30
Fuente: El Economista

Putting together business plans, preventing risks and motivating a complex classroom are some of the innovative uses of AI in the master's degrees in business administrations at universities in the region.

The world is competitive. Latin America is unstable and this reality needs professionals who stand up in adversity. This is how Masters in Business Administration (MBA) have positioned themselves as academic programs aimed at training new business leaders. Those who take the reins of transnational companies, public institutions or emerging startups.

But ultimately, what worked today, yesterday or five years ago will not be the same in the immediate or distant future. Thus, many universities in the region have decided to adapt their MBA programs to a disruptive tool like artificial intelligence (AI).

Given the multiple optimistic and pessimistic beliefs around AI, one thing is for sure: the doubt about introducing it into a study program is not in the why, but in the how. An international business student can use ChatGPT to answer theoretical questions, but if they want to generate a business plan, they must know how to ask the virtual assistant.

On the other hand, AI is not new in itself. It has existed since the middle of the last century, although in an automated form. Generative AI, the one that creates texts, images and even musical compositions, is another story. Its development is more recent and, therefore, experimental. Pablo Sciolla, professor at the Business School of the University of San Andrés (Argentina), highlights the latter, although he remains optimistic about its progress.

“We are always thinking about ways to incorporate AI every day. We work on concept tests and prototypes, although if I analyze it in an educational process where things have to be evaluated in the long term, I would tell you that we are in the initial stages. At this point, we must ask ourselves how artificial intelligence is inserted into a pedagogical process to use it as a tool to rely on. It is not the other way around,” declared Sciolla to AméricaEconomía .

The vision of an AI that operates as a complement, more like a magical solution, is shared on the other side of the mountain range by Juan Pablo Torres, vice dean of Postgraduate and Continuing Education at the Business School of the Adolfo Ibáñez University (Chile).  

From his perspective, MBA programs focus on teaching future business leaders a series of soft and analytical skills to make complex decisions in uncertain environments. And in this scenario, AI can improve the company's productivity, as long as it is aligned with the organization's competitive strategy.

“Today MBA students must be able to understand concepts of machine learning , generative AI and risks associated with AI to lead projects, and not to be expert programmers or algorithm trainers. However, AI is not the solution to the managerial decision-making problems that companies are experiencing today, but it does facilitate an increase in managerial capabilities with real results in improvements in efficiency, productivity and experience of customers and collaborators," Torres explained.

In the development of MBAs, as well as in other study programs, generative AI is present through image, presentation and text generating tools. In this last group, ChatGPT and Gemini stand out as the most used to become a kind of assistant, although they are not infallible as their databases cover the Internet broadly, without addressing a specific subject.

“There are what are called customized language models, which are post-trained with data from a specific Internet domain. They can be the material of a class, the presentation given by the teacher, a transcription of a video, in short. Although it is still something incipient, they go beyond general tools and that is already an important development,” analyzes Sciolla.

The Argentine academic adds that a potential use of these models is to advise the development of a risk assessment matrix in the creation of a startup. Of course, there is a key issue--AI responses should be taken as one more option among those available. It is not the definitive one.

Furthermore, its uses go beyond the student environment since teachers can use it as a pedagogical tool. Sciolla mentions avatars as examples, artificially created people who appear explaining a topic. He says that, for example, he has used these models to introduce classes where he narrates the impact of technology on business.

“The idea is to show the avatar, not because it is cute, but to communicate a clear message. This did not exist two years ago and let's imagine what can happen with this tool in three years. Let's imagine how this fits in perhaps for a company.”

Under this premise, the San Andrés University has introduced an Artificial Intelligence in Education program, which seeks to raise awareness among teachers with a slogan: AI has come to reinvent traditional ways of teaching and learning. Along the same lines is the Artificial Intelligence Engineering degree, which focuses on the study of these algorithms to propose solutions in various fields of application.

On the other hand, Juan Pablo Torres believes that the added value of generative AI should not be underestimated as its tools can classify information, process natural language and make forecasts that are unattainable for humans in a short time.

“So the short-term limitation is only found in the ability of the MBA professor to understand the technological advances of AI, and at the same time be able to teach and have practical experience in implementing AI projects in the industry,” says the UAI professor.

Although Torres admits that the majority of Chilean business schools develop extension programs in analytical and theoretical methods related to AI, machine learning and business analytics, the proposals for corporate programs in AI, those practical programs co-created with companies, are more limited.

Regarding the academic offer of the Adolfo Ibáñez University, as in its Argentine counterpart, there is already a degree that directly incorporates AI as the essence of the study plan: Engineering in Business and Technology.

“Very soon we will also launch the Executive MBA with a mention in Artificial Intelligence. This, in my opinion, will be a pioneering program in Latin America that combines the development of “general” management skills, a process of transformation of soft skills and business networking , with the specialization of AI courses applied to business,” Torres announced.

Given the widespread belief that the emergence of AI involves the end of countless jobs, Pablo Sciolla puts a cold shoulder to the matter. “What happened to the Internet? Suddenly it gave us access to a lot of information that we previously had to look for in a library. And in a moment we stopped distinguishing it. It is everywhere and we live with it all the time. The same thing now happens with artificial intelligence and in these processes, professions are reinvented. In addition, you can be more productive and, above all, you free up time,” he says.

Meanwhile, Torres also does not perceive AI as an intruder on business talent today or tomorrow. “I believe that AI computing power will continue to grow in the future, but in the short term, I don't think it will replace the human capabilities that allow people to socialize or lead diversified corporations. But the study of AI in the business world may be different in the future. There are different research projects that seek to understand cognitive patterns that improve human capabilities using AI,” he asserts.

Incidentally, Torres says that the National Research and Development Agency of Chile (ANID) recently supported him with financing from Fondecyt. This is a project that tries to understand how managers' visual perception affects their decision making.

What is the objective? In the future, the information collected from visual patterns and electrical information from the brain will be used to predict with machine learning whether there are behaviors or stimuli that facilitate the concentration of managers when making important decisions.

In other words, these AI devices could augment human cognitive abilities. “I don't think it is unreasonable to think that MBA programs in the next 20 years will use this type of device to demonstrate the results to the increasingly demanding business leaders of the future,” Torres projects.


Sergio Herrera Deza