235: Chris Duffey: Human imagination is the limitation for AI
Chris was born and raised in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Chris is the son and creative product of two teachers and the younger brother to a sister who is now a professor. Chris has always felt most comfortable at the intersection of human creativity and technology. Chris now spear-heads Adobe’s Creative Cloud strategic development partnerships across the Creative enterprise space.
Chris’ keynotes have received over 50+ million impressions. His sessions have been reported around the world including Access Hollywood, Extra, Ok Magazine, Hello, People, Daily Mail and Euro News.
In addition, Chris and his work has been featured by more than 100 global media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Inc., Adweek, Adage, Cheddar, The Guardian, The Mirror, The Drum, Campaign, CMO.com, NYPost, Business Insider… and profiled by Google, McKinsey and Wharton in their digital marketing book. Chris also serves on Rutgers University Data Advisory Board and The Board of Directors for Association of National Advertisers NY.
Prior to Adobe Chris was an Award-Winning Executive Creative Director, Noted Speaker, Author and AI & Mobile Technologist. Chris has been featured by Business Insider, and Yahoo as one of “The industry’s leaders on the top issues, challenges and opportunities in the fast-changing world of mobile marketing.” Chris has been a creative consultant with over 35 advertising agencies across the major global holding companies: WPP, IPG, Havas, Omnicom, Publicis and MDC, having worked across every major industry vertical. Chris is the best-selling author of Superhuman Innovation: The world’s first book co-authored by AI about AI.
Chris Duffey has spoken around the world at the leading thought leadership conferences such as being a 5-times Cannes Lion speaker. In 2019 he spoke with IBM on the Future of Creativity. In 2018, he co-presented with Microsoft on the relationship of Human and Machine. In 2017, Chris spoke at Cannes Innovation about Artificial Intelligence Enhanced Creativity. He has also shared the stage with Kim Kardashian at Cannes Lion, speaking on connecting with audiences via mobile gaming. And for the inaugural Cannes Lion Health Festival, Chris co-chaired with Google for the keynote on future trends in mobile marketing.
Chris lives in NYC, when he is not chasing the next innovation, Chris is chasing his two daughters with his wife in Central Park.
Tweetable Quotes and Mentions
“What happens when you bring and amplify human creativity with the latest and greatest technology?” – Click to Tweet
“AI is one of the biggest technologies our generation will ever see.” – Click to Tweet
“From a super intelligence standpoint there’s three layers of AI.” – Click to Tweet
“When we talk about modern day AI, by all known accounts we’re talking about narrow intelligence.” – Click to Tweet
“Sometimes when you stand up for your values you have short-term loss.” – Click to Tweet
“Computational Creativity is the ability to combine human creativity with AI for great personalized experiences at scale.” – Click to Tweet
“From a change management mindset standpoint, people quickly understand that it’s not human versus machine, it’s actually human plus machine.” – Click to Tweet
“The first step is to identify what do humans do well and what do machines do well.” – Click to Tweet
“Creativity is now well beyond a monologue, it’s a dialogue.” – Click to Tweet
“You get rich and innovative ideas when you bring in multiple teams and disciplines together.” – Click to Tweet
“At the end of the day it’s about the customer and putting the human first.” – Click to Tweet
“How can AI assist in creating speed, understanding, performance, efficiencies, and results?” – Click to Tweet
“The only limitation with AI is human imagination.” – Click to Tweet
“The end result is not about AI. The end result is about creating great experiences.” – Click to Tweet
“AI can help amplify and accelerate the creation of great experiences at scale.” – Click to Tweet
“The roadmap is simple, have a brand purpose, create great experiences and then leverage AI to create those experiences.” – Click to Tweet
“We have the opportunity to create a better world by leveraging innovation, creativity, and technology.” – Click to Tweet
Hump to Get Over
Chris Duffey started as a content creator and creator of digital customer experiences and he witnessed first-hand the power of the intersection of human creativity amplified by artificial intelligence. But nothing prepared him for the moment when the publisher asked for the next chapter and all he had was a blank page.
Advice for others
Have the courage to innovate, create new ideas, and to make the world a better place.
Holding him back from being an even better leader
Imagination. Be brave, be courageous and go for it.
Best Leadership Advice
Find a way or make a way.
Secret to Success
Finding technologies to achieve business goals.
Best tools in business or life
Artificial intelligence is the power tool.
Contacting Chris Duffey
Resources and Show Mentions
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Okay Fast Leader Legion today I’m excited because I have somebody on the show today who was really going to give us a better understanding of that intersection between human and machine. Chris Duffey was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Chris’s the son and creative product of two teachers and the younger brother of a sister who is now a professor. Chris has always felt most comfortable at the intersection of human creativity and technology. Chris now spearheads Adobe’s Creative Cloud Strategic Development Partnerships across the Creative Enterprise Space. Chris’s keynotes have received over 50 million plus impressions. His sessions have been reported around the world including Access Hollywood, Extra, OK Magazine, Hello People, Daily Mail and Euro News. In addition Chris and his work has been featured by more than 100 global media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Inc., Adweek Adage, Cheddar, The Guardian, The Mirror, The Drum Campaign, CMO.com, New York Post, Business Insider—I think you can get the idea.
Prior to Adobe Chris was an award-winning executive creative director, noted speaker, author and AI and mobile technologist. Chris has been featured by Business Insider and Yahoo as one of the industry’s leaders on the top issues, challenges and opportunities in the fast changing world of mobile marketing. Chris has been a creative consultant with over 35 advertising agencies across the major global holding companies like WPP, IPG, Havas, Omnicom, Publicist and MDC having worked across every major industry vertical. He’s a best-selling author of Super Human Innovation, The world’s first book and co-authored by AI about AI. Chris is spoken around the world. He currently lives in New York City when he’s not chasing the next innovation there he’s actually chasing his two daughters with his wife in Central Park. Chris Duffey, are you ready to help us get over the hump?
Chris Duffey: Yeah, I’m here, I’m let’s do it. Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.
Jim Rembach: I’m glad you’re here. Now I’ve given my Legion a little bit about you but can you share what your current passion is so that we can get to know you even better?
Chris Duffey: Sure. I think exactly that my current passion currently and always has been—what happens when you bring and amplify human creativity with the latest and greatest technology? I think AI, artificial intelligence, is one of if not the biggest technologies that our generation will ever see. I say that because it is now the electrical grid system in every future activity every new product is going to tap into it in some way or some fashion.
Jim Rembach: When you say that I mean there’s a lot of things that started to run through my head and one of the areas of the book is you talk about the history of AI and the reality is it’s been around since the 50s it’s just there were several roadblocks, things along the way, but I think we’re now hitting certain momentum’s that we just couldn’t have before and a lot of it has to do with computational power.
Chris Duffey: Exactly. I think maybe around 2012 that’s where we have this convergence of we finally had computational power, we had this surplus of data and we had some new AI models that all came together and allowed us for this kind of revolution to kind of get restarted. There’s this old joke that AI is really going to take off in the next 20 years and we’ve been saying that for 60 years or so. From a super-intelligent standpoint there’s three layers of AI essentially. Super intelligence and that’s this notion of AI the system at some point will be so profoundly intelligent that we can’t even comprehend it. That’s pretty far off there if we can and will ever achieve that. The next layer down from that is what’s called general intelligence AGI. What that means is the system will have equal intelligence to human capabilities. Again very difficult thing to achieve in the sense that we are still learning new aspects of human biology we’re still learning new aspects of human intelligence and we’re still learning about emotional intelligence.
So when we talk about modern-day AI by all known accounts we’re talking about narrow intelligence or what I like to say is purpose driven intelligence where we can point the system towards a task and help automate that task and get the grunt work the mundane the repetitive tasks out of the way.
Jim Rembach: So right now a lot of it is augmentation and even from what you’re referring to there’s still a whole lot of discrepancies and differences and opportunities with the different types of technologies. I think when we start talking about the creativity aspects of it there’s something that you mentioned in the book that I’d like us to talk about. For me I’m focusing much about the customer experience, the employee experience. This book is just totally based on all that because we’ll talk about some of the industries that have potential impact for this. You talk about something that for me was really interesting and I want us to talk a little bit more about and that is computational creativity. What is that?
Chris Duffey: There’s three layers to that in terms of the highest order and we’re seeing great successes over the last 12 months or so. When brands start with a brand purpose they identify their values and then they stand up for those values and that can be a really challenging thing. There’s some tension there in the sense that sometimes when you stand up for your values you have short-term loss and you have to balance that with long-term gain. We’re seeing that in the drink crazy campaign with Nike Patagonia recently took a stand. You can see that at CVS, Dick’s Sporting Goods where they all stand up for their values and their having long term success because of that. So I think from a business aspect that’s the top layer.
The next layer is then creating great experiences for your customer or what I call the human. That can be both on the customer side but also on your employee side and now you have to create great content for all of those multitude of different touch points. And then you embed, infuse AI, what we are just talking about computational creativity, to solve a number of those problems. So computational creativity is the ability to combine human creativity with AI to create content at scale more intelligently distributed more intelligently measured more and then optimize it more intelligently for these great personalized experiences at scale.
Jim Rembach: Even when I start thinking about that I start thinking about the data associated with it. We’re talking about IOT, Internet of Things having some type of data feed, data source, data flow, nobody still requires a human to be understanding of some of this. You talk about that human and machine data flow and then also a data feedback loop, so give us a little bit of insight of it.
Chris Duffey: Yeah. Now, we can create when AI is embedded into products in themselves, this is where Adobe’s really focused on, where we have AI features embedded into existing and future products to help create content more intelligently. And then you can optimize it, distribute it, and then measure it, and then feed it back to the content creator faster and more efficiently so it can resonate and be more relevant for the audience that content is meaning in terms of a marketing aspect. I think your background is really deep in creating great service for companies we see a huge influx and huge opportunity in the call centers, for example, where an AI assistant can be listening and monitoring the conversation. It can be very suggestive and creating great efficiencies in terms of creating kind of a decision tree almost on serving up the right answers or the right kind of ways to solve the problem that the customer in that case might be having.
Jim Rembach: That whole agent assist model is definitely where we can see some significant opportunities because a lot of the things that are referring to as far as data is concerned enterprise knowledge enterprise information we are at a point where we’ve well gone past how we can actually manage all this information thrown at us that we need to have support through AI and other types maybe even business rules. Just simple business rule because there may even spot where I need to get to that can make a significant impact. I think one of the things that’s critically important is this whole change management component and we societal impact. For example, they say that hey we can actually kind of like with driverless cars or pilotless airplanes but from a society perspective they’re not going to accept that. Just look at this whole Boeing super issue and what happened with that is the whole societal comfort involved in this so change management is internal and external. Do you think that’s going to affect some of the advances that we could potentially have?
Chris Duffey: Without a doubt. We go through this with any new technology this process of normalization. First we have to understand it from a technical standpoint as we just talked about those kind of three layers of what AI is and is not. When you have that understanding Ai is great at these purpose-driven tasks or skills that’s where from a change management mindset standpoint people quickly understand that it’s not human versus machine it’s actually human plus machine then you can identify opportunities to infuse AI. AI is wonderful at pattern recognition it’s wonderful at doing those grunt work that mundane repetitive tasks to get you to a starting point faster. I think the first step is to identify what do humans do well? What do machines do well? And that’s kind of a great starting point. One recent stat really sticks with me it’s coming out of the World Economic Forum about the future kind of jobs report for 2020 and we kind of always held 2020 up as the symbolic year of the future, well it’s only five or so months away. That report said the three most coveted important skill sets for the future of jobs are all inherently human. The first one is critical thinking, the next one is complex problem solving, and then the third of course near and dear to my heart is creativity. So those are all inherently human traits but when you amplify that and combined it with artificial intelligence and technology it just expands those abilities infinitely.
Jim Rembach: I think it’s important to note when we start talking about creativity, creativity is the basic and the requirement for innovation to occur and there’s a lot of things that go along with that so we have to make sure that we clarify the differences between the two. I need to have creative thinking in order for innovation to spawn.
Chris Duffey: Exactly. I think there’s somewhat of a creative bias within the business world where for many years it just hasn’t been an attribution model hasn’t been able to be applied to creative problem-solving but also the creative in terms of marketing and communications. And now with the ability of data we can see that creativity multiple perspectives within organizations are having huge impacts in terms of that relationship between creativity and innovation. Creativity is now well beyond just kind of a monologue it’s a dialogue in the marketing world but it’s also now being applied to solving real-world business problems beyond just those communication aspects. It’s now being applied to helping create new products, new revenue streams so it’s quite exciting in that respect as well.
Jim Rembach: That kind of comes back full circle for us to be more channeled in our creative thinking. So we have our ability to kind of think outside of the boxes they say and have that divergent thinking where we’re thinking about all these 50 things. However, we have to flip it into convergent thinking to see how it fits into our realm with our constituents with our customers. So that transition being able to do that I think that’s where AI can have some significant impacts because of all the data that could be available for them.
Chris Duffey: Exactly. Over the last few years we’ve talked about and seen so many successes around this notion of collective intelligence. What that means is it’s not just one team member or even one discipline but you get these rich really innovative ideas when you bring in kind of multiple teams and disciplines together kind of aka collective intelligence. But a new kind of contributor to that is artificial intelligence and to your point data. So now when you infuse that into the ideation, the creation and the innovation process that is really going to compound those aspects as well.
Jim Rembach: Just like you had also mentioned too, I’m also certified in emotional intelligence, and talking about that need to understand the human condition to be able to (15:17 inaudible) that otherwise you’re going to be creating products nobody.
Chris Duffey: I completely agree. There’s this paradox where the more things seem to change actually they stay the same. At the end of the day it’s about the customer, it’s about putting the human first and trying to solve those friction points or those needs and we can do that kind of at scale like never before now with AI and human creativity.
Jim Rembach: Most definitely. You also talk about these AI models and you talk about five different AI models, if you could run through those real quick I think they’re being helpful.
Chris Duffey: There’s five AI models in terms of different types of AI. I always recommend that for non-engineers, for people to take a step back—of course people can jump into the book and read in more detail about those—but I encourage people to think about it from a broad standpoint more so as a conductor or a composer. In the sense that for non-engineers non-data scientists we are conductors where we don’t necessarily have to build the tools or the instruments or even play the instruments we just have to know how to orchestrate them to map back to solving that real-world business problem or objective.
Jim Rembach: So in order for an organization to be assisted in supported, you actually created a model that is an acronym, SUPER—
Chris Duffey: Yeah, great way because I think this is kind of a nice mnemonic for when people are in business meetings trying to solve problems they can easily reference the acronym of SUPER and what that stands for is, how can a I assist in creating speed at scale, how can it assist in better understanding the marketplace, your customers, your employers, how can AI better create better performance efficiencies in terms of your product and initiatives. There’s also this element of experimentation liking it to the early days of the Internet or the mid-90s where some of the biggest winners were the ones who just got out there and started experimenting with the technology of the time. We’re calling 2019 almost the year that AI is accessible for everyone because now there’s so many great API’s where companies and employees can just tap into those and very easily customize them for specific tasks or skills. And then the last one of course everything has to kind of have an ROI or end in a result. So those are the five components of how AI can create these SUPER kind of experiences by leveraging them in them those ways.
Jim Rembach: I think for me when I looked at that—it’s a great pathway for people to create business cases, to create focus, to create meaning, to create purpose, all those things that go and feed into what you talked about later the change management piece and the ethics piece we talked about that or maybe the social exception at least or your organization’s acceptance your customer acceptance I think that’s a great feeding model. So when I think about all of this though, man, there’s a whole lot of anxiety and inspiration, you need to focus. One of the things that we use on the show in order to help us do that are quotes. Is there a quote or two that you like that you can share?
Chris Duffey: One love that I love to share with everyone is—The only limitation is human imagination. What we mean by that is AI is a means to an end of sorts, in the sense that, the end result is not about AI the end results is about creating great experiences for your employees, your customers and AI can help amplify and accelerate the creation of great experiences that scale across all those multiple touchpoints.
Jim Rembach: I think for me kind of what you were also talking about—you talked about jobs, we also talked about industries impacted, you talked about call centers, which I reside in, you talk about employee experience, customer experience—all of these things we’re seeing some impacts now and you talked about that year 2020 flip but it seems to me like we may see another 60 years before we start seeing really significant impacts. Am I really jaded?
Chris Duffey: I think the road map is quite simple. As we talked about have a brand purpose, create great experiences and then leverage AI’s to create those great experiences, pretty straightforward roadmap and then you can leverage the SUPER framework to kind of guide you for areas of opportunity. From an infrastructure standpoint I think that’s where it gets quite complex in terms of de-siloing, data streams, creating a data lake, making it structured so you can then overlay underlay AI models to extract some of those aspects. That’s complex but it is accessible, approachable currently and I think we just scratched the surface. We’re seeing huge opportunities huge accolades coming out of products that are embedded with AI. A recent stat just recently came out where by 2020 companies that are not leveraging AI will lose $1.2 trillion to companies that are.
Even though we’re only scratching the surface the upside is huge and it’s only going to get bigger and better as the years progress. Now that we have the computational power we have these great models we have kind of a better understanding of what AI is and is not we’ve gone through that process of normalization and we feel comfortable with it from a kind of a change management standpoint. I think it’s going to really take off quickly over the next few years in terms of creating personalized experiences that scale.
Jim Rembach: I think for me having the opportunity to meet with you and the experiences that I’ve had with AI and being in chatbots and agent solutions and things like in the contact center space is that while we are at the beginning, I think organizations are going to be forced to go through transformational change faster because right now it’s very delayed. A lot of the things that I think we kind of hit on here. So hopefully the SUPER model will help them to accelerate, picked some velocity through that. Needless to say when we start talking about this there’s going to be humps that we have to continually need to get over. I would dare to say even though you’ve been an innovator in this is that people don’t see the humps that you had to get over in order to get where you are today. Is there a time where you’ve gotten over a hump that you can share with us?
Chris Duffey: Referencing the book—I started out my career as a content creator on the agency side. I spent 20, 25 years most recently 10 to 15 years on the digital health side creating experiences for both physicians, patients and caregivers and that’s where I saw firsthand the power of again that intersection of human creativity amplified by artificial intelligence. We created experiences for physicians so they could better identify orphan diseases through probability of an AI system. We created some voice assistance where that would help with dosing regimens and all the complexities around that. And then most recently helped create a product where you could measure arterial fibrillation simply by putting the finger on your camera of your phone. And now with AI you can measure broad population kind of predictors in that scenario. So I think those are some interesting examples of how AI is helping in the health space.
Most recently back to my creative background I’ve been familiar with working on deadlines and working on some pretty major campaigns but nothing prepared me for that moment of staring at the blank page and having the publisher ask for the next chapter of the book. I had this moment of realization I don’t only want to write a book about AI but actually leveraged AI to assist in writing the book. So it not only had a technical an informative capabilities and contribution to the book but it also gave me an emotional kind of contribution in the sense that I felt I would I had someone at my back or something at my back throughout the process. So the book is kind of co-authored by AI where we talk back and forth throughout the book. I think that’s an example, a metaphor, for how going forward AI can amplify our human abilities.
Jim Rembach: So another panic helped you to birth.
Chris Duffey: Exactly. Some of the best ideas come out of panic.
Jim Rembach: I think it’s fantastic. Now you kind of alluded it to a little bit but let’s try to get a little bit more specific. When we start talking about, yes you wrote a book, yes you’re working with Adobe and the Creative Cloud and the partnering aspect of that, you have a lot of things going on—you have the kids. But when you start looking at one of your goals, what would one of your goals be?
Chris Duffey: I think it’s to give people the ability to leverage their human creativity. I think it is the gift we all have inside of us and now with technologies we can be up leveled really. I think it’s incumbent and we have the opportunity to create a better world by leveraging innovation, creativity and technology.
Jim Rembach: And the Fast Leader Legion wishes you the very best. Now before we move on let’s get a quick word from our sponsor:
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Okay, Fast Leader legion, it’s time for the Hump Day Hoedown. Okay, Chris, the Hump Day Hoedown is a part of our show where you give us good insights fast. I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us fast and robust responses so that we can all move onward and upward faster. Chris Duffey, are you ready to hoedown?
Chris Duffey: Let’s do it.
Jim Rembach: Alright. So what do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?
Chris Duffey: I think it’s imagination. If we’ll just be brave, be courageous and go for it. We now have the technology to help achieve those goals.
Jim Rembach: What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?
Chris Duffey: I love this phrase, Find a way or make away.
Jim Rembach: What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?
Chris Duffey: Finding technologies to achieve business goals.
Jim Rembach: What is one of your tools that you believe helps you in business and life?
Chris Duffey: Without a doubt artificial intelligence will be the power tool of the time.
Jim Rembach: Okay, Chris, what would be one book that you’d recommend to our listenes, it could be from any genre, of course we’re going to put a link to—Superhuman Innovation—on your show notes page as well.
Chris Duffey: My next favorite one is, Make it Stick. I think that was a book that has stood out over time for me in terms of creating ideas that resonate and are relevant to the consumer.
Jim Rembach: The authors for that book as far as Make it stick or Made to Stick because I know there’s a couple different ones, Dan Heath, is that one?
Chris Duffey: Exactly.
Jim Rembach: Yes, I love that as well. Okay, Fast Leader legion, you can find links to that and other bonus material from today’s show by going to fastleader.net/ChrisDuffey. Okay, Chris this is my last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you were given the opportunity to take your knowledge and skills back to the age of 25. But you can’t take it all, you can only take one. So what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?
Chris Duffey: I would say courage. Courage to innovate, courage to create ideas, courage to help make the world a better place.
Jim Rembach: Chris, it was an honor to spend time with you today. Can you please share with the Fast Leader Legion how they can connect with you?
Chris Duffey: Sure. I’m on chrisduffey.ai or also can be found on Instagram @superhuman innovation.
Jim Rembach: Chris Duffey, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom and the Fast Leader Legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. Woot! Woot!
Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links from every show special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the fastleader.net so we can help you move onward and upward faster.
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