Video Quick Take: Deloitte’s Mike Bechtel on Opening up to AI – SPONSOR CONTENT FROM DELOITTE

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Julie Devoll, HBR

Welcome to the HBR Quick Take. I’m Julie Devoll, editor for special projects and webinars at HBR, and today, I’m here with Mike Bechtel. As chief futurist within Deloitte, Bechtel helps clients develop strategies to thrive in the face of discontinuity and disruption. His team researches the novel and exponential technologies most likely to impact the future of business. Today, we’re here to do a quick take into AI and what that could mean for the future of your business. Mike, thank you so much for joining us today.

Mike Bechtel, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Oh, thank you so very much for having me. It’s an absolute treat to be with you.


Julie Devoll, HBR

Mike, AI isn’t necessarily new. It’s been around for a number of years. But as Deloitte’s chief futurist, you’re seeing AI changing in ways that might not be visible to all of us. Can you talk about what you see coming next on the forefront of AI?

Mike Bechtel, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Absolutely, Julie. We geeks like to say that AI is whatever computers can’t do yet. And up until recently, AI and machine learning showed up as a critic, a sort of a pesky character telling you how you should have or might have done things differently. Lately, it’s showing up more like a copilot, quietly grabbing the controls and helping you get to your preferred outcomes faster. And so what’s really newest in terms of business use of AI today is that transition from sort of guide on the side to meaningful copilot.

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Now, this only works if you have trust, right? You could have all the fanciest math in the world helping power the optimal decision, but if it’s a black box, if you can’t understand or audit what’s going on in there, you’re unlikely to use it. And so difference number one—copilot, not critic. Difference number two—glass boxes, not black boxes. Explainable AI is a meaningful and trustworthy inorganic colleague.

Julie Devoll, HBR

Really interesting to think about the future. Thank you for that. Just to push a little bit more, what do you think will be most significant to executives in the years to come?

Mike Bechtel, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Well, Julie, we’ve talked about how AI has been making this turn from pesky critic to helpful copilot. But the next big act, the next rabbit out of the hat, is generative AI, this idea of computational creativity. Now, to us as business leaders, it feels like downright magic—machines doing prose, poetry, paintings. But to a machine, it’s just math, right? And so in short, the question in front of us as business leaders is this: what can we do now that we have the tools to enable digitized creativity?

There’s this old quote: “Success is having better problems to solve.” And so too is AI. AI is freeing us to move up the stack and focus on higher-order problems. The responsibility for business leaders [is,] what are these higher-order problems? What new solutions can we deliver with this excess capacity?

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Julie Devoll, HBR

Mike, different companies are on different levels of their journeys when it comes to AI. What should executives be considering, no matter what path they’re on, as they continue on their AI journey?

Mike Bechtel, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Well, I think one of the primary things that business leaders realize matters—might matter most—is that to get to this trust, we need to make sure that we’re stamping out bias, both tacit and explicit, from the jump, right? Think of it like this. We need to teach our digital children well. And to do so, we need to train them on data that expresses how we wish to act, not how we’ve acted for the last 100 years.

And so being mindful about identifying biases and existing training data, stamping those out, and making sure again that we’re teaching these machines to operate on our aspirational and best ambitions, that’s going to be the difference between replicating the wrong kind of past and creating the kind of future that we all want together.

Julie Devoll, HBR

Great insight into the customer journey. Mike, thank you so much for all your time today about the future of AI.

Mike Bechtel, Deloitte Consulting LLP

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Julie, it’s been an absolute privilege to be with you. Thanks.

To learn more, click here to check out Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2023 report.

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