MBA Programs Are Artificial Intelligence’s Ideal Proving Grounds

MBA Programs Are Artificial Intelligence's Ideal Proving Grounds

In late July 2023, the Biden-Harris administration announced voluntary commitments from seven leading companies to help move toward safe, secure, and transparent development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Meta, Microsoft, and OpenAI agreed to comprehensive principles aimed at introducing secure and trustworthy products to the public, putting security first, and in the interest of the public’s trust. In doing so, these large global corporations created a roadmap for their future.

Moving forward, MBA programs should similarly establish themselves as the ideal proving grounds to pioneer and deploy Responsible AI capabilities.

Whole economies are benefitting from increases in speed and accuracy, improvements in customer service, and lower costs from AI. Collectively, AI technologies are predicted to increase global economic output by $13 trillion by 2029. From finance to health services, real estate to fast food, AI technologies are being adopted at a rapid rate across industries and around the world. According to IBM, 35% of companies are using AI and 42% of companies are exploring AI for its implementation in the future.

Against this backdrop, MBA programs are well-positioned to serve as the laboratory for responsible AI practices. Graduate business programs are integrating instruction on decision-making processes that are enabled by data-driven insights, advanced analytics, and discussions about a new wave of automation of physical and cognitive processes. Businesses are sure to reap the benefits of MBA graduates who have the mindset and competencies to use AI to innovate strategy and product/service offerings to improve speed, quality, consistency and scalability.


John G. Mooney: “Integration of Responsible AI principles and practices within MBA programs can help foster a new generation of business leaders who can pursue the many potential benefits offered by AI technologies while mitigating the potential harms”

While recognizing the numerous benefits of AI in business, it is essential for MBA programs to thoughtfully integrate AI into their overall approach while also emphasizing responsible and ethical approaches to maximize its potential effectively. Here are three thoughts on effective integration of AI opportunities and challenges into the MBA curriculum:

First, across core courses, MBA programs should incorporate coverage of AI capabilities and their application across the entire range of functional areas. Broadly speaking, AI adoption is rapidly proliferating in areas that were unimaginable just a few years ago. There is virtually no industry, functional area, or occupation that will be untouched by AI. Integrating AI into core MBA classes – such as strategy, marketing, operations – empowers students with multifaceted skills that will benefit them and the organizations with which they are associated for the long haul.

Second, MBA programs should provide students with opportunities to actually use AI tools and platforms across the range of functional areas and professional roles. In addition to analysis of assigned readings and case studies, hands-on experimentation and peer discussion fosters active engagement, encourages critical thinking, and provides an opportunity for exchanging diverse perspectives and receiving developmental feedback.

Third, MBA programs should include electives that explore how business leaders can guide responsible applications of AI. Integrative discussions about the social, ethical, environmental, and economic aspects of AI applications in business offers multifaceted benefits that extend far beyond the confines of academia. By incorporating responsible AI practices, future business leaders can navigate the complexities of AI adoption, ensuring they make informed decisions that prioritize societal well-being, environmental sustainability, and ethical considerations.


At Pepperdine Graziadio, our “Leading Responsible Applications of AI” elective course requires students to use Generative AI tools to research responsible AI practices and develop a proposal for a Responsible AI application for a client organization. The latter is presented to a group of senior executives (actual humans) at the last class session. Consistent with our mission to develop Best for the World leaders who drive meaningful, positive change in their global organizations and communities, the learning goal is for students to develop the mindset, competencies and comfort to propose applications of AI tools and capabilities help the client organization better achieve its business goals, while also adhering to Responsible AI principles and practices. Such integration empowers graduates to drive innovation, instill confidence in stakeholders and society, and shape the business landscape responsibly.

As with every powerful technology, the exciting potential positive benefits of AI are countered by significant risks and downsides from both unintended consequences and intentional irresponsible use. MBA programs must integrate AI responsibly into their curriculum to equip future business leaders with the knowledge and skills needed to harness AI’s positive potential without doing harm. This likely means having the leadership values and foresight to set aside near-term profits in order to curb long-term negative consequences.

As AI developers continue to evolve and shape AI products, MBA programs can provide opportunities to safely experiment with this revolutionary technology and rigorously assess its potential consequences. The resulting integration of Responsible AI principles and practices within MBA programs can help foster a new generation of business leaders who can pursue the many potential benefits offered by AI technologies while mitigating the potential harms.

Dr. John G. Mooney is professor of information systems technology management and academic director of the Executive Doctor in Business Administration at the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School.  

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