When and How Artificial Intelligence Augments Employee Creativity

Can artificial intelligence (AI) assist human employees in increasing employee creativity? Drawing on research on AI-human collaboration, job design, and employee creativity, we examine AI assistance in the form of a sequential division of labor within organizations: in a task, AI handles the initial portion which is well-codified and repetitive, and employees focus on the subsequent portion involving higher-level problem-solving. First, we provide causal evidence from a field experiment conducted at a telemarketing company. We find that AI assistance in generating sales leads, on average, increases employees’ creativity in answering customers’ questions during subsequent sales persuasion. Enhanced creativity leads to increased sales. However, this effect is much more pronounced for higher-skilled employees. Next, we conducted a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with the employees. We found that AI assistance changes job design by intensifying employees’ interactions with more serious customers. This change enables higher-skilled employees to generate innovative scripts and develop positive emotions at work, which are conducive to creativity. By contrast, with AI assistance, lower-skilled employees make limited improvements to scripts and experience negative emotions at work. We conclude that employees can achieve AI-augmented creativity, but this desirable outcome is skill-biased by favoring experts with greater job skills.