Technology Innovation

Radically Human

How new technology is transforming business and shaping our future.

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As innovation continues its exponential acceleration, emerging technologies are becoming more human-centric in their abilities, enabling a major leap in our capabilities and potential.

Technology advances are making tech more…human

From the blockchain, to the metaverse, to emotional AI, digital technologies are rapidly advancing at a time when enterprises face more pressure than ever to innovate to gain a competitive advantage. Human behaviors and intelligence are informing the design of new machines, and everything we knew about innovation and strategy is being turned upside down.

How will you apply these human-centric technologies to transform the future of your business? Radically Human, a new book from Accenture Technology leaders Paul Daugherty and H. James Wilson, offers business leaders an easy-to-understand breakdown of today’s most advanced human-inspired technologies and an actionable IDEAS framework that will help you approach innovation in a completely new way.

With groundbreaking research and insights, this book demystifies cutting-edge technologies, providing a blueprint for leaders to create business value while building a more human-centered, trust-based, and sustainable enterprise.

News Release

Radically Human book shows new path to success

Praise for Radically Human

"Leading organizations recognize the strategic role of technology in the reinvention of their businesses. Radically Human offers an easy—to—understand primer on cloud, artificial intelligence, and other emerging technologies, and provides a clear, compelling framework that challenges current thinking with a new human—centric mindset on innovation."

Peter Zaffino, CEO, AIG

"In today’s business world, the greatest challenge is that most Homo Sapiens think linearly—but these people are playing the wrong game. Radically Human offers a set of tools and frameworks to remind everybody that the business world is not linear, but exponential."

Stephane Bancel, CEO, Moderna

"Radically Human offers businesses and leaders a startlingly fresh perspective on how the increasingly human face of advanced technology is transforming innovation. Paul Daugherty and Jim Wilson provide a clear roadmap that enables leaders to build their future in a way that maximizes talent and human potential."

Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global

"From emotional AI to the metaverse, digital technologies are rapidly advancing. Daugherty and Wilson offer a compelling blueprint for leaders to create business value while building a more human—centered, trustworthy, and sustainable society. A must—read!"

Erik Brynjolfsson, Professor and Director of the Digital Economy Lab at Stanford and author of The Second Machine Age

"Radically Human makes an original, provocative business case for human—centered tech. Companies that harness AI and other advanced technologies while keeping trust and talent at the fore will become this century’s greatest success stories. Paul Daugherty’s and James Wilson’s research reveals valuable insights, brilliant real—world examples, and a new framework to transform the future."

Amy Webb, CEO, Future Today Institute and senior fellow, Atlantic Council

"Radically Human turns upside down many of the assumptions on artificial intelligence and emerging technologies. Daugherty and Wilson make a strong case for a new, human—centered approach to technology leadership and provide a roadmap for a better future for all."

Dr. Kai—Fu Lee, Chairman and CEO, Sinovation Ventures and author of AI 2041 and AI Superpowers

"In Radically Human, Paul Daugherty and James Wilson paint an exhilarating perspective on the next stage of our technology development, one that puts the human at the center of a more sustainable future—a future that we will ultimately decide."

Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Chairman & CEO, Schneider Electric

"Daugherty and Wilson take on the very important work of distilling down today's complex and rapidly changing business landscape. Their prior book examined the early rise of artificial intelligence and now the authors consider how far the technology has come to transform the traditional definitions of invention and innovation."

Peter Chen, CEO, Covariant

"In Radically Human, Paul Daugherty and James Wilson deftly illustrate how AI and other technologies will transform our future. Building on their extensive research and client experiences, the book makes a powerful case for why a human and humane approach will enable business leaders to disrupt competitors and chart a path toward a future that works for all."

R "Ray" Wang, CEO, Constellation Research and 2X Best Selling Author

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Chapter summaries

In Part One, we explore the new approaches to intelligence, data, expertise, architecture, and strategy (IDEAS) that are redefining innovation. Taken together, these turns toward the radically human in technology will remake business.

Technologies based only on deep learning have little sense of causality, space, time, or other fundamental concepts that human beings effortlessly call on to move through the world. Now a number of pioneering researchers and companies are creating applications and machines whose reasoning ability is adaptable and savvy—more like the way humans approach problems and tasks. For example, a new generation of robots can generalize in real-world settings like warehouses, manipulating items without being told what to do. Or consider “emotional AI,” which grew out of work with autistic children to help them understand and express their emotions. It is now evolving into onboard automobile AI that could be as effective in saving motorists’ lives as seatbelts. By leveraging the most powerful cognitive characteristics of humans— awareness and adaptability—these developments promise potentially more intelligent solutions to pressing commercial and social challenges.

The voracious data appetite of deep learning and the need for massive infrastructure to support it has increasingly put AI out of reach for many organizations. In the future, however, we will have top-down systems that don’t require as much data and are faster, more flexible, and more affordable. Companies, like e-commerce retailer Wayfair, are effectively training AI in contexts where big and noisy data, like an enormous number of products, would previously drown out the small subset of relevant data. As AI continues to evolve, researchers and organizations are developing techniques ranging from data echoing, where a system reuses data; to active learning, where the system indicates what training data it needs; to synthetic data, where usable data is created where none exists. The size, shape, sources, and implementation of data are changing and, in the process, giving companies even more powerful insights and adding agility to their operations.

The human turn in intelligent systems is upending many of the assumptions about the role of people and their expertise in the emerging technological ecosystem. This is one of the most consequential human turns of all: from machines “learning” by processing mountains of data to humans teaching machines based on human experience, perception, and intuition. Rather than training systems with bottom-up machine intelligence, people are guiding them with top-down human knowledge, imparting natural intelligence to what was previously artificial. Etsy, the online marketplace for vintage and handmade goods, has developed a product recommendation system based on aesthetics, a notoriously difficult challenge for AI, by having the company’s experts school the system in subjective notions of style. For almost any company, machine teaching unleashes the often-untapped expertise throughout the organization, allowing more people to use AI in new and sophisticated ways.

The conventional IT “stack” spans software applications, hardware, telecommunications, facilities, and data centers. But this conventional stack simply can’t handle today’s hyper-digital world of mobile computing, AI applications, the internet of things (IoT), and billions of devices. In place of the rigid conventional stack, innovative companies are creating “living systems”—boundaryless, adaptable, and radically human architectures that bring an elegant simplicity to human-machine interaction. Epic Games, creator of the software framework called the “Unreal Engine,” has an architecture that is fast and adaptable, allowing more than 8 million simultaneous users to engage in graphics-intensive game play in addition to collecting a large and steady stream of data for AI-enabled analytics. Harnessing the power and elasticity of the cloud and combining it with AI and edge computing, the human turn in architecture has ignited a new era of business where competition, no matter the industry, has become a battle between systems.

Leading companies are pioneering a fundamentally new approach to strategy and, in the process, creating powerful engines of value creation. Companies can no longer afford to sequentially devise a strategy, experiment, and then execute. Among the novel business strategies that are emerging, three stand out: Forever Beta, Minimum Viable IDEA (MVI), and Co-lab. Forever Beta strategies are seen in products like the Tesla, which are digitally updateable through the cloud, allowing customers to see the value and utility of their purchase grow over time rather than fade. MVI strategies use one or more elements of the IDEAS framework to precisely target weak links in a traditional industry, provide a superior customer experience, and make immediate inroads in the market. Co-lab strategies produce superior results in the sciences or other knowledge-intensive environments through human-guided, machine-driven discovery.

In Part Two, “Competing for the Radically Human Future,” we explore how companies will use IDEAS to differentiate themselves along four key dimensions: talent, trust, experiences, and sustainability. These four key areas will be critical for companies to compete successfully in the radically human future.

If all companies are now tech companies, all employees are now tech employees whose skills with intelligent technologies will be major difference makers. Leading companies take three bold steps to unlock the full potential of their people together with radically human technology, taking differentiation on talent to a new level of distinctiveness: (1) they democratize technology by putting it in the hands of employees of all kinds at all levels; (2) they invest in innovative technology skilling programs to take their people beyond digital literacy to digital fluency; and (3) they enable productivity from anywhere at a time when how and where work gets done is undergoing a massive shift. These companies are redeveloping existing talent, attracting new talent, and refashioning deep-rooted cultures to turn the workforce from passive users of intelligent systems to active producers of such systems, with exponentially more valuable and profitable results.

Trust has been thrust to the fore as never before by the pandemic. It must be rethought in light of ubiquitous technologies that tap into deep wells of anxiety. In response, companies are imbuing emerging technologies with the essentials of trust: humanity, fairness, transparency, privacy, and security. Privacy is now Apple’s foremost differentiator. Goldman Sachs-based startup CYFIRMA is using predictive analytics to detect cyber threats before they become cyberattacks. Manhattan-based AI startup Pymetrics is one of a number of tech startups trying to overhaul the hiring process with the help of AI—but in a way that’s free of human bias and genuinely fair to both the jobseeker and the employer. These companies and others, in making trust an integral component of their business model, strategies, and the technology itself, are turning trustworthiness into operational reality.

New technologies provide customers and employees with digitally driven experiences that transcend traditional notions of customer experience or employer brand—and threaten to leave purveyors of prosaic experiences far behind. Leading companies are drawing on IDEAS to design radically human experiences that tap into some of the most compelling human aspirations and interests: (1) empowering experiences that fulfill our need for mastery; (2) rewarding experiences that provide personal growth, fun, or satisfying collaboration; (3) tuned-in experiences that offer effortless engagement; and (4) responsible experiences that connect us with something larger than ourselves. Companies that continue to think of experience merely in terms of customer touchpoints are likely to fall behind in the marketplace and miss the boat entirely in terms of employees.

The radically human turns represented by IDEAS come together in the most radically human turn of all: sustainability, the existential struggle to save our planet and the people who inhabit it. Machine learning and related digital technologies hold immense promise for helping us overcome our biggest challenges. At the same time, digital technologies have a dark side in terms of the environment. For example, training a single AI model can emit as much carbon as five ordinary cars do over their lifetimes. Companies will need to address this reality directly in order to keep the damage from outpacing the gain. They must adopt a dual focus: using technology as a powerful tool to create new solutions that promote sustainability, while also improving the sustainability of technology itself.

Over the past five years, three truths have emerged: all companies are now technology companies; companies have proved that they can wield technology to innovate and change with unprecedented speed; and in the human-technology nexus, the human is in the ascendant. This means as people’s skills, experiences, and, in some senses, humanity evolve in tune with new technologies, the technologies and their design will need to further adapt. These truths, combined with a set of unprecedented global circumstances, have brought society to an inflection point--a once-in-a-generation opportunity to actively shape our future from the ground up. At this moment of truth for technology and for people, companies that fully embrace their newfound power to reimagine everything from their talent to data, architecture, and strategy will lead the way in business performance and to a future that works better for everyone.

About the authors

Paul R. Daugherty is a leading authority on how technology innovations are shaping the future of business and society. As the Group Chief Executive-Technology and CTO of Accenture, Paul oversees all aspects of the company’s Technology business. He also advises the world’s top leaders on reimagining and reinventing their organizations’ futures. He is co-author of Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI (HBR Press) and is a frequent speaker and writer on technology innovation. Read more.

H. James (Jim) Wilson is Global Managing Director of Thought Leadership & Technology Research at Accenture, where he leads research programs on the impact of technology on work, innovation, and business performance. He is the coauthor of Human + Machine (HBR Press) and the author or contributing author of numerous books and articles on the impact of technology on work and society. Wilson is a frequent keynote speaker and recognized by Codex as one of the top 50 innovators in the world. Read more.

Jim Wilson Paul Daugherty

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